Starfinder

Hey guys!

Today we’re taking a look at the Starfinder Core Rulebook! So fuel up your starships, set your phasers to stun and double-check you’re not wearing a red shirt! We’re launching into space!

Starfinder is a new d20 game from Paizo Publishing which is heavily based on Pathfinder. With a streamlined set of rules, a bunch of new races, and a whole galaxy to explore, Starfinder certainly brought with it a lot of excitement! The Starfinder Core Rulebook is massive. It weighs in at a whopping 527 pages, and has an American cover price of $59.99. That means if you’re Canadian, like myself, you’re looking at paying around 75-80 dollars. If you’re lucky, you can find some decent sales on this hefty tome. At the time of posting this the Starfinder Core Rulebook is on sale on amazon for only $56 Canadian, which is an awesome deal! I highly suggest picking it up before it goes back up to full price. The book itself is split into thirteen chapters, plus the reference sections at the back.

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Before we take a look at the contents of the book itself, I’d like to make a few general points about the book. First off, the entire book is user friendly and well-written. It does a wonderful job of making the game accessible and easy to understand. This is a definite improvement over the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, which can be complicated, to say the least! Second, although a lot of Starfinder’s rules are familiar, and a player of Pathfinder could technically pick up a character sheet and hop right into the game, there are a lot of minor changes to the rules and character creation process. This means that there are differences which you should read. Owning and reading the Starfinder Core Rulebookisn’t optional. You need to read this bad-boy! And finally, The Starfinder Core Rulebook isn’t just a rulebook. Like the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, it also has everything you need to GM a game. In addition, unlike the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, this book also has a large portion dedicated to the campaign setting, including various planets, religions and organizations. This is an AWESOME addition.

So without further ado…

The Starfinder Core Rulebook!


Chapter One

The first chapter is an overview. Now, that may not sound very exciting, but let me tell you, this chapter is invaluable for new players. It tells you, right up front, what the heck Starfinder is, what you need to play, how the game works, and gives you definitions for a bunch of common terms. In addition, it has an enjoyable example of play. If you’re familiar with d20 games, and Pathfinder specifically, you won’t need to read this chapter more than once, but if you’re not? It’s amazing. More importantly, it gives someone browsing at a bookstore or a game shop an actual idea of what Starfinder is. I can’t tell you how many times when I was a pre-teen I picked up the old Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Player’s Handbook, browsed it, desperately wanted to buy it, but put it back because I had NO IDEA what it was. Haha. So, from me to you, Starfinder, THANKS. Countless curious readers will appreciate the overview. I promise.


Chapter Two

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A human envoy, from the Starfinder Core Rulebook.

The second chapter is INVALUABLE. It’s all about Character Creation. To start with, it gives an AWESOME step-by-step guide to making your character. It’s simple, easy to understand, and super user-friendly. Also in the chapters is a short, one sentence description of each of the core races, themes, and classes in Starfinder, as well as chart showing which ability scores they modify for ease of reference.

Right from the beginning of this chapter you’ll find some differences between Starfinder and Pathfinder. There’s the addition of a few vital statistics, including Stamina Points, which act like a buffer for your Hit Points, and Resolve Points, which allow your character to perform amazing feats, stabilize themselves, and even regain consciousness. All ability scores are chosen by point buy, but on a one-for-one basis with ten points to spend. This is going to give you stronger characters with better stats than you would get with Pathfinder, while the addition of SP and RP will make characters sturdier, and hardier. In short, even if you think you know what you’re doing, you need to give this chapter a read. Although the character creation process is familiar to players of Pathfinder, Dungeons and Dragons and other d20 games, there are differences you need to be aware of.

Later in the same chapter is another very important section: Themes.

What is a theme?

A theme represent a focus for your character, which may represent your background, training, or natural gifts. These themes are quite broad, and every character gets one in addition to their class. It makes characters seem more varied, and allows two different characters of the same class to feel different, even if they chose similar builds and tactical options. An ace pilot mercenary might be a hot-shot space pilot who’s a master of starship battles and races, while an icon mercenary might be a galaxy-famous gladiator, and a priest mercenary might be a mystical holy warrior. A theme is like adding flavour and personality onto your character based on their interests.

Mechanically, each theme adds a +1 bonus to a single ability score and grants four special abilities. The first ability is universal across all classes, and is called Theme Knowledge. This ability gives each theme an important skill as a class skill, or grants them a +1 bonus in that skill if it is already a class skill. In addition, it reduces the DC for those characters to learn information related to their chosen theme. For example, an Ace Pilot finds it easy to learn about starships, vehicles and famous pilots, while a Priest finds it easier to recall information about religions, their symbolism and their leaders. The other three abilities that each theme grants are different for each theme, but are gained at levels 6, 12 and 18. For those of you who don’t want to choose a theme, you can make a character themeless, which gives you a few generic benefits, but isn’t as powerful as the other themes.

There’s a total of ten themes in Starfinder. They are: Ace Pilot, Bounty Hunter, Icon, Mercenary, Outlaw, Priest, Scholar, Spacefarer, Xenoseeker and Themeless. They’re all quite solid choices, but my personal favourites are the Ace Pilot–who doesn’t want to be an awesome starship pilot?!–the Spacefarer and the Xenoseeker. The Spacefarer is an explorer who is a master at discovering and surviving new worlds. They get a bonus on Constitution, and are naturally skilled at the Physical Sciences. At later levels they gain the ability to better utilize skills they’re not trained in, and can regain Resolve Points by exploring new worlds and locations. The Xenoseeker is similar to the Spacefarer, in that they love exploring new worlds, but where the Spacefarer loves the worlds themselves, the Xenoseeker is interested in the life found upon them. Xenoseeker’s get a bonus to Charisma and are naturally skilled at the Life Sciences, including learning about living creatures and their culture. At later levels they gain the ability to quickly create a pidgin tongue in order communicate with alien beings, and can easily make a good impression upon them. They can regain their Resolve Points by discovering or documenting a new species of flora or fauna.

Whichever theme you’re drawn to, I think they’re a great addition to the game, and are a lot of fun.


Chapter Three

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An android operative, from the Starfinder Core Rulebook.

Chapter Three brings us to the Races of Starfinder. One of these, the human, is a staple of all d20 games, but the others are more obscure. The core races in Starfinder also include androids, kasathas, lashuntas, shirrens, vesk and ysoki. Some of these, namely androids, kasathas, lashuntas, and ysoki, might be familiar to players of Pathfinder, while the shirren and vesk are entirely new.

Curious what happened to the old favourites, like dwarves and elves? They’re still a part of Starfinder, but are much more rare than the core races. These races can be found in a different chapter of the book, which we’ll get to later.

In addition to altering ability scores and giving special abilities, races also have an HP value. This HP is added to the HP granted by your class to make your starting HP. After the technical aspects of the class, each race entry has a few notes about playing that race, as well as descriptions about the race’s physical description, home world, society, alignments, relationships, and naming conventions. Each race has a full two-page spread dedicated to it, with some awesome artwork.

There are seven core races in Starfinder. Humans are as adaptable as ever, but we won’t delve into them any more than that. You are one, so I think you can handle it.  Haha. Androids are artificial creatures with both biological and mechanical components that are smart, but poor at interacting with others. Kasathas are four-armed, hairless humanoids, with elongated craniums that come from a desert planet. They’re strong and wise, and have great reverence for their past and history, which causes them to live by a lot of odd taboos and traditions. Lashuntas are dimorphic, and have two different types of statistics. All lashunta are good at interacting with others, but the muscular Korasha’s can be brash and unobservant, while the tall and slender Damaya’s are clever, but delicate. Both types of lashunta have telepathic powers, and are capable of a few minor magical spells. They have antennae on they foreheads, but otherwise look relatively human. Shirrens are an insectile species of humanoid with a delightful disposition. Shirrens were once part of a hive-mind, and have broken free from it. Now they take great delight in free-will and making choices. These quirky bug-people are hardy and clever, but not very good at interacting with others. They also give out some of the highest HP of the core races. Shirren have blind sense, and some telepathic powers. They’re fascinated with learning about other cultures and societies, and are good at working with others. Vesk are strong, hardy lizard-like humanoids who come from a battle-focused society. Not long ago, the Vesk (who have an entire galaxy under their control) were at war with the Pact Worlds, but in order to conquer a greater threat, the Vesk made peace with their one-time enemies. Vesk are bold, fearless, and capable of combat even when unarmed. Like the Shirren, they give out some of the highest starting HP of the core races. Finally, there’s the Ysoki, or ratfolk. Ysoki are nimble, smart little fellows that are good at building and creating things. They’re found on nearly every world, and are known to be resilient. They’re small though, and slight, making them weaker than the other core races, and they do not give out much HP. They have cheek pouches which they can store goods in, can see in the dark, and are scrappy even when the odds are against them.

So what are my favourites? Honestly, I like them all, but my VERY favourites, would be the tough but stupid vesk, and the enthusiastic, scrappy little ysoki! It should be noted that the quirky shirren came in a close third for me, and considering how much I hate bugs, that’s quite an accomplishment!


Chapter Four

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A kasatha solarian, from the Starfinder Core Rulebook.

Chapter four is all about classes! That’s right! For many player’s this is the best, and most used chapter of any rulebook. The classes in Starfinder will likely feel familiar, but are not quite what you’d expect. You won’t find a bard, or a rogue or a sorcerer here. Instead there’s the Envoy, the Mechanic, Mystic, Operative, Solarion, Soldier and Technomancer. Each of these classes have a set HP they give out, as well as a certain number of Stamina Points, which is modified by your Constitution. They each have a key ability score which is what your Resolve Points run off of. Like most d20 games, they each have a list of class skills, give out a certain number of skill points, grant certain armour and weapon proficiencies, and have a ton of cool abilities. One thing I’d like to point out is that each of these classes is very adaptable and varied. That is, each gives the player different options or specialties, which will make two characters of the same class seem different right from the get-go. Combine this with different themes, and the combinations of characters you can create are vast. Each class entry varies between seven to ten pages long, and ends with an example of four quick character examples made by combining themes with classes.

The first class, the Envoy, is kind of like a mix between a bard and a diplomat. The envoy uses their charm, skills and wits to get by. Their expertise ability lets them add an extra 1d6 to Sense Motive checks, as well to any skills they have skill focus in. They can also select other skills to become an expert at as they gain levels. Later they can unlock other ways to use their skills, with expertise talents. Their other major ability is envoy improvisation, which lets them learn abilities which can bolster their allies, confound their enemies or change the ebb and flow of battle. My favourite low level envoy improvisation is ‘Inspiring Boost’ which lets you inspire an ally that was wounded last turn to regain stamina equal to your level plus your Charisma modifier. There’s also ‘Go Get ‘Em!’ which lets you choose an enemy as a move action, and grants a bonus on attack rolls against that enemy. Both are awesome staples, and good examples of some of the tricks your envoy can utilize right from level one.

The second class, the Mechanic, is a favourite in my house, with both myself and my children desperately loving it. The mechanic is a master of machines an computers, who makes an artificial intelligence and can implant it into either a drone, or their own brain (which is called an exocortex). Drones come in three basic types (combat, hover and stealth) but can be modified as you gain levels, while installing the AI inside yourself allows the mechanic to gain proficiency with extra weapons, and increases your battle prowess. Along the way mechanics can become experts at hacking and overriding machines, repairing mechanical devices and starships, and can gain some snazzy tricks. My favourite low level trick for those with a drone is ‘Repair Drone,’ which is pretty self explanatory, haha, and energy shield, which grants you a force field for a minute (functions as temporary hp).

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A shirren mystic, from the Starfinder Core Rulebook.

The third class is the Mystic, which is Starfinder’s divine caster and healer. They give out a decent amount of HP, SP, and run off wisdom. In addition to being able to cast spells, every mystic chooses a force which is connected to their powers. This force, or connection, will determine the extra abilities the mystic receives. Connections that are available include Akashic, Empath, Healer, Mindbreaker, Overlord, Star Shaman, and Xenodruid. Each are very cool, and each can be associated with different religions, if you like, but doesn’t have to be. My favourite connections are the Healer, which gain the ability to channel at level one, and later can steal health from enemies in order to heal themselves, and can resurrect the dead; and the Star Shaman, who can survive perfectly fine unprotected in the vacuum of space, and can later transform themselves into flying bursts of starlight, call down meteor showers, and teleport between planets.

The fourth class is the Operative, which is kind of like a rogue. They give out a decent amount of HP and SP, and run off of Dexterity. Every operative has a specialization which grants them skill focus with a few key skills and gives them some special abilities. These specializations include Daredevil, Detective, Explorer, Ghost, Hacker, Spy and Thief, each of which is very cool and really helps make each operative feel unique. They also gain the trick attack ability, which allows them to fake out their opponents in order to deal more damage. To trick your opponent you can use bluff, intimidate or stealth, as well as any special skills tied to your specialization. As operatives progress, they also gain exploits, which are special abilities that grant you bonuses on skill checks, or new offensive or defensive options. Operative’s have trained hard to get where they are and get a bonus on all initiative and skill checks. They also gain the evasion ability and increased move speed. At high levels they have can make extra attacks when taking a full attack action. Operatives are a really solid class, and I like a lot of their options, but my favourite specialization has got to be the daredevil. I’m a fan of flashy combatants. Haha.

The fifth class is another favourite of mine, the Solarian, a warrior attuned to the powers of the universe. Solarian’s get among the highest HP and SP of all the classes, and a decent array of skills. They run off of charisma, which they use to channel their stellar powers, which are generally themed around gravity and the stars. Every solarian gets either a melee weapon or armour made from their stellar powers, the cosmetic description of which can be highly variable. Whatever they choose, the manifestation gets better over time. At the start of every battle, solarians attune themselves to the powers of the universe (photons or gravitons), which allows them to use special powers (revelations) associated with those themes. The most powerful of these abilities (called zenith revelations) use up this attunement, while the rest can be used as long as you are attuned. At first level each solarian gets the same two zenith powers: supernova, which lets out a burst of fire to harm your enemies, and black hole, which drags your enemies closer to you. At later levels the revelations are your choice, but must be taken in equilibrium. This means that you cannot make a creature with only gravity or only solar powers. Solarians tend to be melee focused, so they benefit greatly from high strength and constitution. Although a lot of fun, solarian’s feel the least varied to me in terms of character options.

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A vesk soldier, from the Starfinder Core Rulebook.

The sixth class is the Soldier, which is kind of like a fighter. They get the highest HP and SP of all the classes (tied with the solarian), and a wide range of weapon and armour proficiencies. They get a ton of bonus feats, and some abilities which let them get better use out of their gear. Like the operative, soldiers get the ability to make extra attacks at higher levels, and must choose a fighting style to specialize in. At higher levels they’ll also gain a secondary fighting style. The fighting styles are extremely varied, and include Arcane Assailant, Armour Storm, Blitz, Guard, Hit-and-Run, and Sharpshoot. I was really impressed with the wide range of combat styles, but my favourites turned out to be the Arcane Assailant, which lets you magically enchant your weapons and shake off harmful conditions; and Bombard, which make you an expert with grenades.

The seventh and final class is the Technomancer, which is Starfinder’s arcane caster. Technomancer’s use technology to empower, harness and manipulate magic, and they use magic to augment, control and modify technology. In addition to casting spells, and gaining some some basic abilities and bonuses, they get a collection of spell hacks–special abilities that modify or augment their spells. There are plenty of cool spell hacks, but my favourite low-level ones include Fabricate Tech, which lets you use up a spell slot to create technological items as a full action, and Selective Targeting, which lets you shape your area of effect spells so that they ignore one five foot square.

The last part of the Classes chapter features two archetypes. Each archetype replaces a specific number of class abilities with new ones. These archetypes are the Phrenic Adept, which gain powerful psychic abilities, and the Starfinder Forerunner. I like the archetypes, but mostly I like the way they’re done. Starfinder archetypes always grant abilities at either 2nd, 4th, 6th, 9th, 12th and 18th levels, and for each of these levels, each class gives up certain class abilities. This means that each archetype can be used with any class, and doesn’t need to specify what abilities are lost, only what level the new abilities are gained. I think this is an interesting way to use archetypes, and so far, I quite like it.


Chapter Five

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A lushunta technomancer, from the Starfinder Core Rulebook.

Chapter five is about skills. There are less skills than there are in Pathfinder, and most of the skills do a lot more than I expected. In addition to familiar skills–like Acrobatics, Athletics, Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, Perception, Profession, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Stealth and Survival–there’s quite a few new ones. Some of these are self-explanatory: Computers, Engineering, Medicine, and Piloting, come to mind. But others take a bit more to explain.

Culture lets you learn about other cultures, including their laws, customs, government, religion, history and related topics, but also lets you decipher texts and learn languages. Life Sciences lets you craft food, poisons, drugs and medicines, identify creatures and plants, and recall knowledge about bioengineering, biology, botany, ecology, genetics, zoology and other forms of biological sciences. Mysticism lets you identify, craft, disable and utilize magical devices, and recall knowledge about alchemy, magic, the planes, and deities and their traditions. Physical Sciences lets you create drugs, poisons and medicines, and recall knowledge about astronomy, chemistry, climatology, geography, geology, hyperspace, meteorology, oceanography, physics and other fields of natural science.

See what I mean? Each skill does SO MUCH. They’re super-charged! Even familiar skills, like Survival, do more than I expected. In addition to allowing you to track, navigate, predict the weather and live off the land, Survival also allows you to rear wild animals, and ride creatures. Cool!


Chapter Six

Up next is feats! Who doesn’t love a good feat, right? And what was the first thing I noticed about the feats chapter? It’s not very long. I mean, there’s a good deal of feats, but not a ton. I was expecting more.

The second thing I noticed? Many of the feats are highly adaptable, or do more. For example, Skill Focus! It’s the same as in Pathfinder. But Skill Synergy? This feat allows you to choose two skills and either make them class skills, or get +2 in both of them. Cool! That’s multiple Pathfinder feats all rolled into one feat, AND made more useful. This is a theme with Starfinder’s feats. There’s less, but they do more and are often adaptable.

Another common theme among these feats is that a lot of things you would have needed a feat for in Pathfinder, no longer needs a feat. Take Improved Unarmed Strike. This is still a feat, but it’s not needed to throw a punch. Instead, it allows you to do progressively more damage with your unarmed strikes, count as armed when unarmed, and allow you to attack with more than just your fists. Or take a look at Weapon Focus. Familiar? Yes. The same? No! Its better. In Starfinder, Weapon Focus allows you to choose a weapon type (NOT a specific weapon) and gain +1 attack with that weapon. If your BAB sucks? It grants a +2 instead. See? Better.

Lastly, feat trees are shorter and many feats that would require other feats as prerequisites in Pathfinder, no longer do in Starfinder. Cleave, Body-Guard, Mobility, and so on. All feats which no longer have other feats as prerequisites. This is just… awesome.

All in all, I really like what they’ve done with the feats in Starfinder. Some are familiar, some are new, but all of them deserve a read! You can’t just assume you know what they do!


Chapter Seven

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A ysoki mechanic, from the Starfinder Core Rulebook.

The seventh chapter is one you’re going to use constantly. Also? It’s huge. At nearly 70 pages long, chapter seven is all about equipment. Weapons, armour, mundane gear, technological wonders, magical equipment, hybrids, cybernetics, augmentations, vehicles and even AIs. It’s all here!

In Starfinder you don’t use gold, or coins. That’s a thing of the past. Instead you use credits, which are kept on cred-sticks and can be set up like bank accounts or like gift cards. Some can even store access to a credit line. Each character starts with a whopping 1,000 credits upon character creation, which is less than it seems when you account for the cost of weapons and armour. I’ve found this is a good, generous number. You’re not rich, and you can’t just spend willy-nilly, but it’s certainly more than you need. And with every character getting the same amount, you no longer need to fret that your character will get less stuff based on their class. It’s a change I like.

Now, even if you strike it rich, that doesn’t mean you can just buy anything. Every item has a level, and you can only purchase items up to one level higher than your own. This means that even though there’s a level 10 laser pistol you really want, no shopkeep will show it to you until you’re level 9. This might seem weird, at first, but it’s a super streamlined way to let a player know what they can purchase in a city, without a lot of calculations, rolling of percentile dice, or bookkeeping. I highly approve.

Next thing you’ll learn about in this chapter is carrying capacity. Don’t groan! I know that no one likes number crunching pounds and recalculating for being small, but you know what? Starfinder knows that, too! Starfinder uses Bulk. This is an abstract measurement, not an actual weight, and is super easy to use. Each character can comfortably carry up to half of their strength score in bulk. If they carry more than that, they’re encumbered, which affects their movement speeds, max-dex and makes it hard for them to use physical and dextrous skills. No one can carry more than their strength score in bulk, and if they’re forced to they are overburdened. Which sucks, so don’t do it! Haha.

This system makes it easy to calculate you carrying capacity. You’ve got 8 strength? You can carry 4 bulk without being hindered, and if you carry five or more, you’re encumbered. You can’t carry more than eight. Easy! Items will say beside their names either a whole number (1 Bulk, 2 Bulk), nothing, or L. What is L? L means something is light and weighs less than one bulk. 10 L makes 1 Bulk. And if you have less than 10? It doesn’t count toward your bulk at all! That’s right! You could carry 1 Bulk and 9 L, and still only count as 1 Bulk. Awesome. Now, I know this might make it feel like you can’t carry much. You’ll look at that 5 or 6 bulk and worry that you’ll go over the weight and get yourself encumbered, but you know what? I can honestly say that it hasn’t been a problem for me. I’ve made a ton of characters with these rules already, and haven’t once had an issue with carrying too much stuff. Not once.

For the most part, the weapon and armour charts will look like they do in most d20 games. They’re sorted by type, they’ve got a price and damage, and such, but there’s a lot more information hiding in these charts than you’re used to. In addition to items having levels, they also state what kind of damage they do right in their damage entry. P denotes piercing, S is slashing, B is bludgeoning, F is fire, E is electricity and so on. Physical attacks (which typically do B, P, or S damage) target Kinetic AC or KAC for short, while energy attacks (which typically do A, C, E, F, or So damage) target Energy AC or EAC for short. This means that all armour now have two AC bonuses they grant, an EAC and a KAC bonus. Guns and powered armours all have a capacity column now, which shows how many bullets or charges an item can hold, and a usage column, which shows how many bullets or charges are utilized each time the object is used. The column for critical has changed. All weapons do double damage on a critical hit, but many also have special abilities that function when a critical is scored. Some might knockdown the opponent, others might light them on fire, and others might cause bleeding wounds. Whatever the case, you’ll grow to love these extra critical abilities. There’s also another column, which is also pretty exciting: Special. Nearly all weapons and armour have special properties, and instead of describing them in every weapon or armour entry these abilities have all been given key words, which are written under special. From analog weapons, which don’t require technological or electronic parts to function, to automatic, operative, stun and penetrating, these abilities are going to come in handy–or be a hinderance, depending on the ability.  The last addition you’ll find on these equipment charts? Upgrade slots. Some armour has a number of open spaces within which you can install upgrades. These can range from granting you inferred sensors and force fields, to jet packs and spell reflectors. Upgrades are COOL.

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A space goblin, from the Starfinder Core Rulebook. What? You thought you’d get away from these little pests in space? Not a chance!

Now, we’re not going to go into the actual items found in the book in depth, but what I will say is that there’s a lot of weapons and armour, which is great, and a lot less magical objects than I expected, which is not so great, but not horrible. Many of the things once done by magic has become technological or hybrid items, which means you don’t need as much space for magical objects as most d20 games do. Of particular note, is that there is a lot of information in this chapter on computers. On the one hand, that’s good, cause they’re clearly going to play a large role in the game, and you’ll get a lot of use out of your computers skill, but is bad because honestly, most of that information flew right over my head. Haha. The computers section can be overwhelming on a first read, but after a second (or third), I think I’ve got the hang of it. Still, it was more complicated than I expected and was the first, and only, part of the book that confused the heck out of me.

Overall, I really like the equipment, currency and carrying capacity systems that Starfinder utilizes.


Chapter Eight

The next chapter is where we finally start to get into the game itself: Tactical Rules. This chapter takes up about fifty pages and is quite clear and well-written. It makes sense, and all of the changes from Pathfinder really serve to streamline combat and make it more enjoyable. Only three things provoke attacks of opportunity now (moving away from melee, making a ranged attack in melee, and spell-casting in melee). You’ll also want to brush up on the rules about charging, full attacks, damage and dying, all of which operate differently than they do in Pathfinder. This is also where you’ll find details on conditions, vehicles, and chases.


Chapter Nine

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The Pegasus, an exploratory ship used by the Starfinder Society, and one of the many kinds of Starcraft you can create in Starfinder.

The next chapter is around forty pages long and is all about starships and space travel! This is one of the more exciting chapters, which allows you to make, modify and create your own ships easily. It’s also got all the rules you’ll need to fly, battle and repair your ships, as well as details on types of space flight. There’s a collection of beautiful artwork showing the different cultural style of ships, which are just gorgeous!

The ship creation system is simple, but allows for a wide range of custom vessels, and I think it works wonderfully. Same goes for the starship combat rules. In addition to flying and shooting any guns your ship might have, there’s duties and jobs for all members of the crew to do during a starship battle, all of which can turn the tide in your crew’s favour. This means that not just the pilot, and the gunners get to participate, the engineers are invaluable, and the science officers and captains can dramatically alter the battle’s outcome. Movement during these battles is tactical, as the way your ship is facing can change which weapons it can target the enemy with, and which shields your enemy can strike of yours.

I haven’t had a chance to play out a starship battle yet, but this chapter got me VERY excited to do so.


Chapter Ten

Chapter ten has all the rules you need to know for spellcasting, as well as all the spells currently available in Starfinder. There’s only two spell lists: mystic spells and technomancer spells, and both of these are spontaneous casters (which means all magic in Starfinder is spontaneous!). Spells in Starfinder only go up to level six, and there’s not a lot of them (the entire chapter only takes up forty five pages). That being said, some of the spells do a lot more than I expected, while others can be cast at varying levels, which changes their effects. Flight is a good example of a spell with a variable level, as is mystic cure and mind thrust. Magic missile is a good example of a spell that does more than it’s Pathfinder equivalent (at low level).

There’s plenty of familiar spells within this chapter. Spells you’ll recognize from Pathfinder, Dungeons and Dragons and other d20 games. But, there’s also a lot of new ones, some of which are VERY cool. Give it a read and let me know what you think! You won’t be disappointed.


Chapter Eleven

Up next is a chapter you’ll either get a lot of use out of, or none at all…

It’s all about Game Mastering. This is where you’ll find information on creating encounters, experience and wealth, how to run a game, environments and their hazards, settlements, traps, afflictions, and–very importantly–how to read a stat block! Every section of this chapter is explained concisely, and is easy to understand. I’m a big fan, actually, and I’m going to be reading it (and using it) a LOT.


Chapter Twelve

As we near the end of the book, we come to one of the most exciting, flavourful chapters: the world universe of Starfinder! The setting.

Now, obviously, with a universe at your fingertips, the number of worlds and species you can encounter is limitless, but this chapter, all sixty glorious pages of it, breathes life into Starfinder’s presumed setting: The Pact Worlds. This chapter starts off with a short history of the Pact Worlds, and a few notes on what happened to Golarion, the world of Pathfinder.

Wait!

What happened to it?

What do I mean?

It’s simple. Golarion has completely vanished. How? Why? Oh, you’ll have to read to find out, but I will say that in it’s place is Absalom Station, a massive space station and home to the Starfinder Society (a group that is inspired by the Pathfinders). In addition to learning about the planets, cultures, religions and major organizations that are going to be the homes, travel destinations, and enemies of your players, this chapter also introduces a few very important concepts that are integral to the campaign setting. These include the Drift, the Gap, and the formation of the Pact Worlds.

I am a HUGE fan of this chapter and its inclusion in the Core Rulebook. The setting is wonderful and vibrant, and within this chapter is a ton of inspiration for your players and your adventures.

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The Pact Worlds System, from the Starfinder Core Rulebook.

Chapter Thirteen

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A dwarf soldier from the Starfinder Core Rulebook.

And here we are! The final chapter in the Starfinder Core Rulebook! But what’s left?

Pathfinder Legacy.

This is a short, ten page chapter that provides statistics for all of Pathfinder’s core races, allowing your players to be classics like elves, half-orcs and gnomes. And even more exciting? This chapter has all the rules necessary to convert any monster or class over from Pathfinder, to Starfinder. Likewise, it’s a simple process to convert other races over to the Starfinder rules.

This information appears at the end because it is supplemental, and has the potential to unbalance a game. Conversions must be done with care, and only by the GM. However, despite these limitations, the core races are available to all players, so get ready to bring your dwarf into space. He’s more than welcome.


And that’s it. Starfinder Core Rulebook.

So what do I think? Is it worth it?

Yes. Yes. And yes again for emphasis.

I love the Starfinder rules, and the game. And I LOVE that the campaign setting is included right inside the Core Rulebook. Before I even finished reading this big, beautiful, tome, I was testing out the character creation rules, and reading up on religions, curious as to what might be familiar and what would be new. I was pleasantly surprised with the game at every turn, and can’t wait to bring the joy of Starfinder to my family.


I hope you enjoyed taking a look at Starfinder with me today.

Thanks for stopping by.

I hope to see you travelling the Drift!

Jessica

 

Kubo and the Two Strings

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Kubo and the Two Strings (DVD & Blu-ray)

Have any of you seen the film Kubo and the Two Strings? I watched it with my children and husband recently, and was literally amazed by it.

Kubo is wonderful stop-motion movie that follows a boy named Kubo on a journey to protect himself from the dreaded Moon King. But Kubo is no ordinary boy. Kubo can make magic happen by playing his samisen. On his journey he’s accompanied by an origami samurai, a talking monkey, and a samurai beetle who has amnesia.

It’s a samurai film and a fantasy film, lovingly made with puppets and gorgeous scenery. Not only was it a joy to look at, the story was well-developed, the characters were lovable (or terrifying) and everyone was… well-rounded. Whole, believable people. No one thought they were the villain, not everyone got along, and not everything came down to killing things. It was a touching tale, and admittedly I was sobbing my face off near the end, but at the same time, it was heartwarming and hopeful.

Although an American movie, Kubo is clearly a Japanese story, and a ton of research went into making it as historically accurate as possible–considering the story, haha. For those of you who haven’t given this movie a chance, I STRONGLY recommend you do.

Watching Kubo made me want to play some of the awesome adventures I have kicking around my house that have an Eastern feel to them, but since I have way too many campaigns on the go as it is, today we’re going to celebrate them on d20 Diaries! Presenting my five favourite d20 adventures that are inspired by Eastern cultures. Whether they’ve got samurai, ninja, monasteries of contemplative warrior monks seeking enlightenment, or a fusion of many places and cultures, these adventures celebrate, embrace, emulate or are inspired by the Far East!

So sit back, and enjoy!


The Winding Way

The first adventure we’re taking a look at is The Winding Way. Written by Nicholas Logue, and Published by Paizo in Dungeon Magazine Volume 117, The Winding Way is a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure intended for 14th level characters. Although it was written for a ‘neutral’ campaign setting and is meant to be dropped into any fantasy world, The Winding Way is clearly inspired by contemplative warrior monks like the Shaolin of China. That being said, it’s a horror adventure first and foremost, so don’t expect to be achieving enlightenment, or making friends with this one.

The Winding Way takes place at a secluded temple monastery which was built on the slopes of Darkmoon Mountain. During construction the Master, Marik Draven, discovered an ancient stone door, sealed for untold generations. Marik and his students were unable to decipher much of the text, but what they did translate was ominous: words like death, darkness and plague. Marik halted construction of his temple and meditated in contemplation. Eventually he decided that the door should be left untouched, and that his temple would be built around and above it. In addition to being a school for martial arts and enlightenment, the Temple of the Winding Way would become a guardian of this unholy doorway, ensuring it remained sealed for all time.

But it was not to last. Out of jealousy and greed, a rebuffed student sought to steal the riches of the temple for himself, and discovered the graven door. He picked the locks, disabled the door’s defences, and opened it, sealing the fate of those within the temple. For death was behind the door, and its spread is unstoppable!

This adventure has the PCs explore the Temple of the Winding Way for a variety of reasons, only to find that everyone inside has been turned into undead monstrosities. In order to put an end to this evil, they’ll have to defeat a wide variety of undead including bhuts, dread wraiths, forsaken shells, vampires and–my personal favourite–a pennaggolan monk! That’s right, an undead monk that’s going to use unarmed strike to fight with his own lungs and entrails. It’s going to be AWESOME! In addition, they’ll have to pass through the trials of the Winding Way itself, not all of which can be accomplished with brute strength or agility, and discover the source of the undead plague.


PZOPSS0309E_500The Quest for Perfection

The second adventure we’re taking a look at today is actually a three-part trilogy of Pathfinder Society Scenarios entitled the Quest for Perfection. All three scenarios are Tiers 1-5. Scenario #3-09: The Quest for Perfection Part 1: The Edge of Heaven is written by Jerall Toi, and takes place in Tian Xia, a continent on Golarion strongly inspired by Chinese cultures. This adventure tasks the Pathfinders with travelling through the Wall of Heaven, the tallest mountain range on Golarion, on a journey to reach the Clouded Path Monastery and obtain an ancient relic, the Braid of a Hundred Masters, from the monastery. The trip is dangerous, and has a lot of wonderfully designed encounters where terrain plays a huge part. In addition to the perils of the mountain itself, the players are clearly on a pilgrimage trail, and there’s a lot of neat shrines, and other monuments along their journey. Upon reaching the monastery itself, they find it the lair of violent yetis who make excellent use of their surroundings. Their leader throws relics and nearby objects at the group including foo lion statues (of which there’s a picture)! In addition to enemies, the group can also meet a former monk of the monastery, currently a statue capable of tactile telepathy, who can share much of the history of the monastery with the group. After obtaining the Braid of a Hundred Masters, the Pathfinders discover it’s powers have gone dormant, which leads us into part two.

250px-On_Hostile_WatersScenario #3-11: The Quest for Perfection Part 2: On Hostile Waters is written by Benjamin Bruck, and sets the Pathfinders on a quest to reactivate the Braid of a Hundred Masters by bringing to the last remaining descendant of its rightful owner, a woman from the town of Nesting Swallow by the name of Je Tsun. The journey is a long one, down the Tuunma River and into the Sea of Eels. The river is surrounded on all sides by political turmoil, as it passes through the warring successor states of Lingshen, Po Li and Quain. In addition to the dangers of the river, and banditry, the players have to defend the Braid from soldiers and naval ships from Lingshen who desire to claim its power for themselves.

PZOPSS0313E_500Scenario #3-13: The Quest for Perfection Part 3: Defenders of Nesting Swallow is written by Sean McGowan, and finally sees the Pathfinders arrive in the small town of Nesting Swallow, only to discover it has been under attack from tengu bandits. Je Tsun agrees to aid them in reactivating the Braid of a Hundred Masters–and will even let them keep it–if they can defend Nesting Swallow from the villains who prey upon them. The rest of the adventure allows the players to organize the defence of the town, train the villagers, and set up barricades or whatever else the group might think of. When the bandits finally come, they get to see how their work has paid off (or not!) as the villagers and the Pathfinders fight alongside one another to drive off the bandits. Wave after wave attacks the town, and whether anyone survives is up to your players. In the end, the bandit leader himself joins the battle, the tengu samurai mounted atop his axe beak mount: Khwankonu! This is the adventure’s finale, and is a ton of fun! If Je Tsun lives she makes good on her word and reignites the magic of the Braid, bestowing it upon the Pathfinders for saving her village.


The Palace of Plenty

TSR82130_500The third adventure we’re taking a look at is the Palace of Plenty, a 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons adventure written to complement the Oriental Adventures: Dungeons & Dragons Supplement book. This adventure was written by Tito Leati, and was published in Volume 130 of Dungeon Magazine. It is intended for 10th level characters.

This is a wonderful, atmospheric adventure that has the players explore the frozen wastes of Kisarimuke, with the purpose of finding the Amata Goten–the legendary Palace of Plenty–which was said to be a magical palace that once was connected to the city of Okabaimura. After making the journey through Kisarimuke, the group can explore the ruins of Okabaimura, a sombre, mysterious experience. Events in the ruins can give the group clues as to the nature of the Palace of Plenty, and how to get there, but it does so in a very subtle, wonderful way. After eventually finding the way to Amata Goten, the players find a beautiful palace, lush with greenery, that is frozen in time. Within are spirits and ghosts, and many more mysteries. I’ll refrain from giving anything else away about this adventure. But, I will say that I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful this adventure hints at the backstory, and the stories and lives of the ghosts and spirits within it, without just giving away information. It’s subtlety is spectacular.


The Ruby Pheonix Tournament

images-1.jpegThe fourth adventure we’re looking at is The Ruby Phoenix Tournament, a Pathfinder adventure written by Tim Hitchcock and intended for 11th level characters. This adventure brings us back to the Wall of Heaven on the continent of Tian Xia. Here, on the island of Xielan, a prestigious fighting tournament takes place, which allows the winners to claim any one object from the treasury of Hao Jin, the Ruby Pheonix. This tournament attracts combatants from all over the world, including from nations inspired by real-world Japan, China, India and many more. The matches the players are going to engage in are varied, with the terrain often playing an important part in the battles. Some places the players might find themselves fighting in are: flooded mud pools, hot coals, atop multiple towers and rope bridges, and even fighting horizontally on the side of a cliff (literally standing on the cliff face with slippers of spider-climb)! Your players are bound to be continually surprised. In addition to the tournament battles, the players can join in extra matches and challenges. But as the tournament proceeds it becomes clear that something is wrong. From entrants being poisoned and assassins attacking, the players will have to work fast to figure out who’s trying to put an end to the Ruby Pheonix Tournament and stop them, before it’s too late!

Although this adventure has a simple premise, I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s a great, exciting adventure that can be a ton of fun!


Tide of Honor

images-2.jpegThe final adventure we’re talking about today is my very, very favourite. Jade Regent Part 5 – Tide of Honor by Tito Leati. Now, the Jade Regent is a Pathfinder campaign where the last three books take place in Minkai, Paizo’s Japanese inspired nation in Tian Xia, but volume five of the series is my all time favourite. This adventure was clearly written with such LOVE and RESPECT. It’s honestly astounding how clearly that shows in the final product. But enough about the writing, what about the adventure?!

Tide of Honor has the PCs arrive in Minkai with their friend Ameiko Kaijitsu, true heir to the Imperial Throne of Minkai. …But they have no army! Minkai is currently ruled by the Jade Regent, a vicious tyrant who claimed the throne by murdering the emperor. In order to overthrow the Jade Regent the players are going to need allies. A LOT of them. The players single out an honourable Ronin and his small band of masterless samurai as a likely ally, knowing that they were expelled from the capital and are opposed to the Jade Regent. If the players can make contact with the ronin and ally with them, they will gain not only a number of trained warriors, but also allies who know the country, and may be able to help the group get other allies–or at least in contact with them. The leader of the ronin, Hirabashi Jiro attempts to test the PCs character and, if he finds them trustworthy, gives them a task. There is a group of bandits terrorizing the villagers and farmers of the region, but as they operate in two units, the ronin do not have enough warriors to defeat both groups at once. If the players can attack and conquer the bandit fortress, then Jiro and his men can take out the raiders before they harm any innocents. This opening battle is very adaptable and mobile, featuring a lot of ways the players can go about attacking, and organic ways in which the inhabitants respond to attacks. This encounter can benefit a LOT from good planning and scouting, and it’s a great location. To make it better? If the players can defeat the bandits, not only does Jiro agree to join your cause, but he also sets up the fortress as a base of operations for your group and your allies. This fortress is YOURS.

After some deliberation and discussion, Jiro can give the group a list of important political players and potential allies throughout the nation: the ninja clans of Enganoka, the merchants of Minkai who can be contacted by the geisha of Sakakabe, and the samurai of a cruel daimyo! But success isn’t as easy as simply meeting these groups, the players will have to earn their trust, and prove themselves worthy. But, if they can? The players will have an army at their disposal, one which will help them take on the Jade Regent himself and restore the throne to its rightful heir!

But the Jade Regent has many spies, and will not let the players operate without opposition! I hope you’re ready for some fearsome Oni!


And that’s all for us today! I hope you enjoyed taking a look at some of my favourite Eastern styled adventures! What are yours? Did I miss any you think deserve to be on my list?

At the very least, I hope you have a chance to watch Kubo and the Two Strings. You won’t regret it!

Until next time,

Sayonara! Zaijian! Bayartai and alavida!

Jessica

 

Preview: War for the Crown!

With the Ruins of Azlanti adventure path’s final volume out, the next campaign from Pathfinder is already on it’s way. And where, you might be wondering, is the next adventure path going to be?

Answer: Taldor.

That’s right! Today we’re talking about War for the Crown, the next campaign from Paizo Publishing for the Pathfinder RPG! War for the Crown is a six part adventure path that begins with Crownfall. Pre-order is expected to be available in a few weeks time.

So what is War for the Crown? I expect that much is obvious from the title… This one’s pretty self explanatory, guys!

Crownfall begins in Taldor’s capital city of Oppara, during a massive celebration. But conspiracies, rivalries and rebellion cause Emperor Stavian III to snap, ordering a bloodbath in the senate halls. Trapped inside the palace alongside spies and with their life in danger, the PCs will have to escape and save the heir to the throne, Princess Eutropia–just as the Grand Prince himself dies. But even if they manage to save the heir, civil war is on the horizon…

War for the Crown continues with Part Two: Songbird, Scion, Saboteur, Part Three: The Twilight Child, Part Four: City in the Lion’s Eye, Part Five: The Reaper’s Right Hand and the finale, Part Six: The Six-Legend Soul.

Now, the player’s guide for War for the Crown isn’t out yet, but a thorough (and excited!) reading of the information available on each book proves that this is a political campaign, first and foremost, which promises to forge your player’s characters into ‘legendary politicians, spymasters, and nobles in their own right.’

Cool!

While the first book, Crownfall, seems to be about survival and making allies, the second, Songbird, Scion, Saboteur, involves the player’s characters building a power base for the heir by reclaiming her lands from the Lotheed family and includes infiltrating high-society events, and working as a spy to undermine Princess Eutropia’s rivals. Book three, The Twilight Child, continues in this vein, allowing the player’s characters to infiltrate the city of Yanmass, and earn the Princess the respect of the city through espionage and what sounds like a lot of meddling. With a ton of issues plaguing Yanmass, including a cult, this volume seems like it’s going to be more varied and combat heavy than the second book, but with a strong emphasis on politics. Book four, City in the Lion’s Eye sounds like it’s raising the political stakes considerably, by pitting the player’s characters against Princess Eutropia’s rival for the throne, General Pythareus. In addition to commanding an army, the General also commands the most ruthless spymasters in the world. It sounds like the purpose of this book is to outmaneuver the General, and bring down his regime with as little bloodshed as possible in order to prevent a violent war over the throne. I’m particularly interested to see how this book plays out!

It seems like book five, The Reaper’s Right Hand, changes gears considerably, taking the players on a hunt for the First Emporer of Taldor in the planar city of Axis. Yup! You heard right!

“Hey, guys, we’re fighting goblins, what are you up to?”
“Goblins? How droll! We’re off to have afternoon tea with the First Emporer of Taldor on another plane. No biggie!”

Why are they doing this?

I have no idea! But, I’m excited to find out!

War for the Crown finishes with book six, The Six-Legend Soul, which returns the player’s characters to Taldor only to find themselves labelled traitors and murders. Hated and hunted, they’ll have to face off against a secret society known as the Immaculate Circle, and confront six of Taldor’s greatest emporers resurrected from the past!

Wow, that is one tough throne to claim!

As a big fan of urban campaigns, I’m SUPER excited for this campaign!

But, while I wait impatiently for the Player’s Guide to show up on Paizo’s website as a free download, all is not lost! The Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-08: Birthright Betrayed, is a prequel to the War for the Crown, and I happen to be lucky enough to be playing it right now by play-by-post. Want to give it a shot? Birthright Betrayed is available as a PDF download for only five dollars. And it’s not the only one. Scenario #9-11: The Jarlsblood Witch Saga, and Scenario #9-13: The Lion’s Justice, both set the stage for War for the Crown as well!

I don’t know about you, but character concepts are already flying around in my head…

I’d better get plotting! Sounds like I’ll need all the practice I can get before taking on War for the Crown!

Here’s hoping I can spy with the best of them…

Jessica


Update: All of the issues of War for the Crown are now available!

War for the Crown: Book One: Crownfall

War for the Crown: Book 2: Songbird, Scion, Saboteur

War for the Crown: Book Three: Twilight Child

War for the Crown: Book Four: City in the Lion’s Eye

War for the Crown: Book Five: The Reaper’s Right Hand

War for the Crown: Book Six: The Six-Legend Soul

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