Starfinder: Pact Worlds

Welcome back to d20 Diaries!

Today we’re going to be taking a look at Starfinder: Pact Worlds! This is one of the few Starfinder sourcebooks that’s available for purchase. It’s a hardcover book that focuses entirely on the setting of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game: the Pact Worlds. Information on the Pact Worlds first appeared in the Starfinder Rulebook, but this book expands it. A LOT. It features a multiple page description of each planet in the Pact Worlds solar system, a new theme for each, and a wealth of other information on the setting itself.

This article isn’t meant to be a thorough review or critique of Starfinder: Pact Worlds. It won’t replace the book (nor would I want it to!). It’s a quick breakdown of what’s found inside, and what I liked best in each chapter. It’s a collection of my favourites parts of the book, and some highlights. It’s here so that fellow gamers and fans can take a look and get a real feel for what they’ll get out of the book. Hopefully it helps you decide whether this product is right for you.

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

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Starfinder: Pact Worlds

Starfinder: Pact Worlds is a hardcover sourcebook 215 pages in length. It features awesome cover art by Remko Troost which depicts Raia (the iconic lashunta technomancer), Altronus (the iconic kasatha solarian), and Keskodai (the iconic shirren mystic) battling a tyrannosaurus-like alien on the planet Castrovel. The inside covers feature a nice image of the Pact World System (which is not to scale). Following that is the table of contents and the introduction: Welcome to the Pact Worlds. The introduction is four pages long and provides a lot of useful setting information. It talks about the mysterious Gap, the history of the Pact Worlds, as well as the system’s government, economy, culture, and universal time. There’s also quite a bit of information about the Stewards, which is a peace-keeping organization that enforces law and order through the Pact Worlds. They are independent of all planets, and technically serve the Pact Council, but their allegiance is first and foremost to the Pact Worlds themselves. The Stewards are free to refuse orders that violate the Pact or its citizens. I particularly enjoyed hearing more about this group.

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After the introductions we get into Chapter 1: Worlds. This section features an eight to ten page write up of each world in the Pact Worlds system (I use the term ‘world’ loosely). Each entry starts with a small image of the planet as seen upon approach and a gorgeous image of a settlement or location within that world. The entries feature information on each world’s geography, climate, residents, society, potential conflicts and threats, and a large number of notable locations found there. There’s also detailed information on at least one settlement, a map of that world (or region/space station/etc.), an image of an inhabitant (sometimes a general citizen, but other times an important figure), and a brand new character theme (complete with artwork). The artwork is consistently spectacular, and the maps are incredibly useful. The write-ups are surprisingly thorough — particularly considering the difficulty inherent in trying to describe an entire world in ten pages. That said, I found reading them in sequence difficult, as the locations on one planet started to get mixed up with the locations on other planets after I’d read a few different entries. And the themes? Really cool!

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Signing the Pact from Starfinder: Pact Worlds

The first planet this chapter focuses on isn’t a planet at all. It’s the sun. The centre of the Pact Worlds. I loved this entry. It was unique and wildly imaginative. I particularly enjoyed the Burning Archipelago, a region made up of massive bubbles of unknown origin which contain climate-controlled, habitable areas. These islands within the sun are connected by a sort of energy tether, which special ships called linecrawlers can traverse. Obviously, Sarenrae’s faith is common here, and in addition to regular residents of the Pact Worlds one can also find fire elementals, salamanders, and other more exotic creatures. My favourite location on the Sun was the Floating Gardens of Verdeon, although I am very curious about what secrets the lashunta of Asanatown are hiding… The theme for the sun is called Solar Disciple, which represents characters who either honour or worship the life-giving light, heat, and energy of the sun. It grants +1 Wisdom, makes Perception a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about the sun, light, and sun-based religions. At sixth level they gain a bonus on Will saving throws against compulsions, at twelfth level they can channel fire damage dealt to them into their next fire-based attacks, and at eighteenth level they can meditate in the sunlight to regain resolve. Very cool!

The second planet examined (and closest to the sun) is the machine world of Aballon. Here androids, robots known as anacites, artificial intelligences, and innumerable other mechanical creations live, work, and toil as one. Every being has a place and a use in this world, and the governing Insight Array seeks to make life here efficient and purposeful. The only areas outside the reach of their Megaplexes are the ancient cities of the First Ones — the unknown beings who created the first anacites. I ADORED reading about the society of the anacites who make Aballon home. My favourite locations include Preceptum XIII, a megaplex run by a senile advanced intelligence; and Infinity, a holy site where anacites bathe in molten lead by day, and sit in contemplation in the cooled, hardened lead by night. Aballon’s theme is the Roboticist, which is my son’s favourite theme in this book. It grants +1 Intelligence, makes Engineering a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to identify technological creatures. At sixth level they can create technological equipment of a higher level than normal, at twelfth level they can repair constructs and starships more effectively, and at eighteenth level they can examine discovered technology to regain resolve.

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Aballon by Leon Tukker
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Starfinder: Core Rulebook

Up next is my daughter’s favourite planet: Castrovel! A land of steaming jungles, lush forests, eco-friendly cities, and nature preserves. This is the homeward of lashuntas (who live on the continent of Asana), formians (who live in The Colonies), and elves (who live in Sovyrian). Its fourth major continent is Ukulam, a nature preserve of immense size. My favourite locations include the Ocean of Mists (which is exactly what is sounds like), the continent of Ukulam, the elven settlement of Cordona, and Telasia: the Portal Grove, a magical transportation hub claimed by the green dragon Urvosk. The theme for Castrovel is called Wild Warden, which represents characters who live in the wilds. It grants +1 Wisdom, makes Survival a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about animals, plants, and vermin. At sixth level they are effective at using non-lethal damage with lethal weapons against animals, plants and vermin, and providing first aid to such creature with Life Science. At twelfth level they become master foragers, and at eighteenth level they can meditate in a natural setting to regain resolve. This is by far my daughter’s favourite theme.

The next planet in the Pact Worlds isn’t a planet at all, but a space station. That’s right! It’s Absalom Station! Home of the Starstone, the Starfinders, centre of Drift travel, and located in the place Golarion once stood. Chances are if you’re reading this you know at least a bit about Absalom Station. If there’s a capital of the Pact Worlds, this is it! Be sure to check out my favourite locations in Absalom: Eyeswide Agency (a group of psychic ‘holistic detectives.’ Dirk Gently, anyone?!?), Fardock (a mysterious magical arch that’s likely to kill you), Rig House (lair of the Lowrigger Gang), and the Ghost Levels of the Spike, which contain strange eco-systems, dangerous criminals, and the machinery that keeps Absalom running!  The theme for Absalom Station is called Corporate Agent, which represents characters who work for mega corporations. It grants +1 Charisma, makes Diplomacy a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about corporations and their executives. At sixth level they can quickly gather information from their contacts, at twelfth level they can use their connections to influence people, and at eighteenth level they can study and negotiate to the benefit of their company to regain resolve. Although this theme is neat, it’s not really one that caught me eye.

Leaving Absalom Station behind, we come to the desert world of Akiton, a dying planet where only the desperate still live. The native humans of Akiton have deep red skin and are known as hylki. Other races prominent on Akiton include contemplatives, shobhad, ysoki and, my personal favourite: ikeshti. There are a lot of cool places on this Mars-like planet, but my favourites are Ashok (a psychic amplifier located in a crater and populated by contemplatives), Bounty (a failed terraforming experiment that worked too well), Five Tines Fortress (an ancient flying citadel that was transformed into an amusement park by enterprising ysoki), the Utopia of Tivik (an abandoned company town that features its founder’s face everywhere), and Ka, Pillar of the Sky (the tallest mountain in the Pact Worlds and a mysterious holy site to the shobhad-neh). The theme for Akiton is called Gladiator, which represents… exactly what it says it does. Haha. It grants +1 Constitution, makes Intimidate a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about entertainment combat, fighting styles, and gladiatorial traditions. At sixth level they become famous, at twelfth level they can convince others to let them carry their weapons even where they’re not allowed, and at eighteenth level they can defeat a significant enemy in front of an audience to regain resolve.

Up next? Verces. Now, when I first read the Starfinder Core Rulebook of all the planets that were introduced it was Verces that most interested me. I couldn’t quite place why, but it definitely had me intrigued. Suffice to say I was really excited to learn more about this highly civilized, tidally locked world. I was not disappointed! Half of Verces is a sun-scorched desert, while the other half is a dark, frozen wasteland. The area between these regions forms a central ring known as the Ring of Nations, which is a series of cities all built side-by-side. The locals are known as verthani, and they have bulging mouse-like black eyes, elongated arms, and (many have) a plethora of augmentations. Other races commonly found here include humans, kasatha, rhyphorians, shirren, strix, and ysoki. Of the many cool locations, I recommend checking out Fastness of the Ordered Mind (a monastic temple in the cold of Darkside with surprising thematic ties to the religion of Zon-Kuthon), The River of Returning Joys (a massive travelling caravan festival that constantly journeys through the Ring of Nations), Lempro (a tiny independent nation inhabited by bloodless creatures called intis who adore riddles), and the Oasis Temples (planar breaches to the First World where fey we once worshipped in temples and lush plant-life grows). The theme for Verces is called Cyberborn, which represents characters who are augmented. It grants +1 Intelligence, makes Computers a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about cybernetic augmentations, procedures, and experts. At sixth level they can use their augmentations to regain stamina, at twelfth level they gain electricity resistance and improve their augmentations countermeasures, and at eighteenth level they can perform an amazing task with one of their augmentations to regain resolve. This is by far my husband’s favourite theme in the book!

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Starfinder: Alien Archive

Next to Verces is Idari, the amazing and beautiful homeship of the kasathans. Be sure to check out the Culinarium (a very fine cooking academy), the Red Corridors (where rebel kasathans are exiled to), and the Sholar Adat (where a section of deceased kasathans brains are ritually preserved and used to access their knowledge and memories! Awesome!). The theme for the Idari is called Tempered Pilgrim, which represents characters who are undertaking the traditional kasathan walkabout known as the Tempering. It grants +1 Charisma, makes Culture a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about cultural customs, and learn languages. At sixth level they are quick to make friends, at twelfth level they can take ten on checks to recall knowledge, and at eighteenth level they can participate in a cultural tradition significantly different than their own to regain resolve.

After that? The Diaspora, a massive asteroid belt made when the sarcesian homeworld was destroyed by Eox. It should be noted that sarcesians are one of my very favourite Pact Worlds races so I’m totally biased to love this place. In addition to sarcesians you can find a lot of space pirates, miners, and dwarves is the Diaspora. By far the coolest location in Diaspora is the River Between, a river that magically flows from one asteroid to another through space. Awesome. Other places worth checking out include The Forgotten King (an asteroid that looks like a 12 mile in diameter human skull made from some kind of ceramic and covered in strange runes), Havinak’s Vortex (a dangerous gravitational phenomenon which contains a protean space station), The Hum (a ship graveyard located around a strange section of space that creates a subsonic hum which causes ships to break and people to become erratic), Heorrhahd (a Dwarven Star Citadel), Nisis (an icy planetoid where sarcesians live in underwater bubble cities), and Songbird Station (a gorgeous Shelynite temple and concert hall). The theme for the Diaspora is called Space Pirate, which is intended for scoundrels who operate on the wrong side of the law. It grants +1 Dexterity, makes Bluff a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about black markets, smugglers, and space pirates. At sixth level they become better at hiding and hiding objects on themselves, at twelfth level they become better at fighting with a small arm and a one handed weapon, and at eighteenth level they can lead a raid or ambush in order to rob someone to regain resolve.

Right next-door to the Diaspora is the toxic planet of Eox, home to the undead. Some of the coolest locations on this dangerous world include Exantius (a new settlement created for non-elebrian undead who are tired of being oppressed), Grim Reach (a ghostly town full of phantoms from the past), Halls of the Living (a subterranean city maintained for the living in order to host reality television shows and cruel competitions), Remembrance Rock (an area littered with tombs and monuments to those lost during the death of Eox), and the Spiral Basilica (a Pharasmin temple). The theme for Eox is called Death-Touched and it is definitely one of my favourites! This theme is for characters who are mortal, but have long lived on Eox, or suffered through an event which could have tainted them with negative energy, or unlife. It grants +1 Constitution, makes Perception a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about undead and negative energy. For an added bonus you also use Perception to identify such creatures and effects, instead of Mysticism. At sixth level they gain a bonus on saving throws against a variety of conditions and effects, at twelfth level they become resistant to the cold, and at eighteenth level they can draw upon souls of the recently killed to regain resolve. Awesome!

Leaving behind the world of the dead we next visit Triaxus, a world with incredibly long seasons (it’s currently winter) inhabited by dragons, dragonkin, and a type of trimorphic elves called rhyphorians. Other races found there include elves, half-elves, and gnomes. I love this place! Who doesn’t? Some of the coolest places on the planet include Grenloch Lacuna Beach (a balmy beach resort and luxury vacation spot which is actually an elaborate virtual reality), Meruchia and Nusova (a pair of flying citadels), and the Sephorian Archipelago (a secret research facility). The theme for the Triaxus is called Dragonblood, which represents characters who have dragon blood coursing through their veins. It grants +1 Charisma, makes Culture a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about dragons and their culture. At sixth level they can terrify their enemies, at twelfth level they gain variable energy resistance, and at eighteenth level they can catalogue their wealth to regain resolve. This theme is awesome, and super thematic! I can’t wait to give it a try.

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Up next is the ringed gas giant Liavara and it’s many moons, each with its own races and cultures. Here the mysterious Dreamers sing riddles of the future while swimming through golden clouds, and outposts of foreign gas miners  plunder the planet’s natural resources. Roselight is Liavara’s major city, which floats the the skies and monitors the mining interests who seek to obtain Liavara’s valuable gases. My personal favourite locations are Etroas (an ancient city on the moon Melos whose citizens all vanished in a mysterious religious event known as the Taking), and Bhalakosti Excursions (a dangerous tourism company on the moon Osoro that brings adrenaline junkies into poisonous jungles for survival safaris — a Vesk hotspot!). The theme for Liavara is called Dream Prophet, which represents characters who can connect with the Dreamers and their songs. It grants +1 Wisdom, makes Mysticism a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to identify spells, and know about arcane symbolism and traditions. At sixth level they can cast augury, at twelfth level they can reroll a specific type of d20 roll twice per day, and at eighteenth level after failing a check that they rerolled they can meditate on the nature of prophecy to regain resolve. Although this is a cool theme, it’s not something I would play. It’s just not my cup of tea.

Beyond Liavara is another gas giant, Bretheda, a stormy planet with blue and purple clouds, surrounded by a large number of moons. Nicknamed ‘the Cradle,’ this planet is home to a ton of races, including the jellyfish-like barathu, haan, kalo, maraquoi, and urogs. There’s also a sizeable population of kasatha and lashunta. This article is particularly dense but, that said, it only had a few locations that really caught my interest. Be sure to check out Yashu-Indiri (a lifeless moon where a strange cult builds shrines to forgotten, dead, and lost deities — including many from Golarion), and the Grand Inza on the moon of Kalo-Mahoi (an underwater resort-city of luxury shopping centres).  The theme for the Bretheda is called Biotechnician, which represents characters who have installed biological augmentations in themselves. It grants +1 Intelligence, makes Medicine a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about biotech augmentations. At sixth level they can use their connections to get a discount on biotech augmentations, at twelfth level they can install extra augmentations in themselves, and at eighteenth level they can deactivate an installed biotech augmentation to regain resolve. Interesting!

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Starfinder: Alien Archive 2

Apostae is up next — an atmosphere-less planetoid inhabited by demon-worshipping drow. Safe to say it’s not a nice place to live. Other unfortunates who toil under the thumb of the drow houses and their weapons corporations are half-orcs, orcs, mongrelmen, and troglodytes. There are a lot of cool places on Apostae, including Crater Town (an independent settlement founded in an icy crater by a half-orc), Nightarch (a city built around a mysterious gate that leads to the planet’s interior), and Wrecker’s Field (a scrapyard). The theme for the Apostae is my absolute favourite in the book and is called Xenoarchaeologist, which represents characters who explore the ruins of lost civilizations. It grants +1 Intelligence, makes Engineering a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to identify rare and alien technology. At sixth level they become adept at noticing traps, at twelfth level they are masters of translating foreign languages, and at eighteenth level they can document an artifact from an unknown or ancient culture to regain resolve. This is AWESOME! Count me in!

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Apostae from Starfinder: Pact Worlds. Art by Leon Tukker.

The final planet in the Pact Worlds is Aucturn, a toxic, shifting, organic world believed by cultists to be the womb of a Great Old One. This place is nasty! It causes mutations, madness, sickness, and worse. It’s very Lovecraftian, featuring gugs, cultists, shogoth, the Dominion of the Black, and so on. Here, nothing is illegal or taboo, and even the darkest urges can be indulged. There are a lot of interesting (and gross!) locations on Aucturn, but my favourites turned out to be Amniek (a city led by a group of midwives who are trying to birth a foul godling from the nearby Gravid Mound), Citadel of the Black (a massive, half-full settlement ruled by Carsai the King, high priest of Nyarlathotep), Endless Throat (an organic feeling hole in the ground that has no end), The Fury Place (a forest filled with a mist that drives people to rage — curiously records show it once caused lust, and before that lethargy), and Master’s Maze (a man-made maze of canyons that can only be solved from within). The theme for Aucturn is called Cultist, which actually represents a character who is an ex-cultist (or at least says they are…). It grants +1 Constitution, makes Disguise a class skill, and it’s theme knowledge makes it easier to know about secretive religions and cults. At sixth level they become adept at infiltrating and impersonating members of a cult, at twelfth level they can reroll a saving throw against diseases, drugs, and poisons, and at eighteenth level they can speak about your time in a cult to regain resolve.

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The Drift from Starfinder: Pact Worlds

With the last of the gazetteers on the planets of the Pact Worlds behind us we’ve already gone through over half of the book. Up next is Chapter Two: Starships. This section begins with some information on the Drift, and then launches into a small array of new starship options. The most interesting options are created for the Xenowarden’s biomechanical ships, but there’s also a few mainstream options like launch tubes, and a brig. I think the Aballonian data net is also really cool. There’s two new starship weapon special properties: burrowing and spore. After that there’s a trio of three new premade ships for different organizations. Three each for Aballonian ships, Hellknight ships, Iomedaean ships, Vercite ships and, my personal favourite: Xenowarden ships. The artwork for the Iomedaean Cathedralships is particularly gorgeous.

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Iomedian cathedral ship from Starfinder: Pact Worlds.

Up next is Chapter Three: Supporting Cast! This section starts with a few sentences of information on a bunch of different factions and organizations, including AbadarCorp, Android Abolitionist Front, Augmented, Corpse Fleet, Knights of Golarion, Starfinder Society, Stewards, and the Xenowardens. After this there is a wide array of NPC stat blocks tied to a theme. Each theme is two pages long, has three different stat blocks of different classes and challenge ratings associated with it, a paragraph of ideas on how you could use (and alter) these stat blocks, and some sample encounters to run with the stat blocks. The themes explored in this section are cultists, free captains, hellknights, mercenaries, security forces, and street gangs.

Up next is the final chapter in the book: Chapter Four: Character Options. This section starts with six new archetypes. The Arcanamirium Sage, who is an expert at using magical items; the Divine Champion, who serves a deity and can unlock divine powers; Skyfire Centurion, warriors who forge a bond with their teammates; Star Knight, a highly adaptable class that can represent warriors of holy or unholy orders (including hellknights); Starfinder Data Jockey, who is an expert with computers and data retrieval; and Steward Officer, a diplomatic peace-keeping military officer. I really liked the Divine Champion and the Star Knight, but I think the Data Jockey is likely to see the most use. It’s awesome.

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Starfinder: Armory

After the archetypes there eight new feats (including the highly adaptable divine blessing), four pages of new weapons and weapon fusions, two pages of new armour and armour upgrades, two pages of technological items, two pages of magic items, two pages hybrid items, and four pages of new spells (check out control atmosphere!).

The last seven pages of the book turned out to be my favourite. They introduced six new Pact Worlds races. What can I say? I’m a sucker for playable aliens! The races include the shapeshifting astrozoans, who have no known history and look like blobby starfish (if they tried to stand). Also, they have eyeballs for elbows and knees! Cool. There’s also winged strix (a familiar face from Golarion), and bantrids who — let’s face it — look like giant noses. These quirky fellows roll around on a sort of ball they have on their base and (ironically) have no sense of smell. The borais are living races who either refused to die (despite dying) or were tainted by negative energy or undeath before they died. These people came back and are now a unique form of undead. There’s also khizars, the awesome plant-people of Castrovel and my favourite of the new races. The final race? SROs, which are basically robots that are fully sentient. My daughter ADORES them.

And that’s it! The end of Starfinder: Pact Worlds. I hope you enjoyed taking a closer look at the book with me today, and that this helped you decide whether Pact Worlds is right for you. I know I love it!

Jessica

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The Pact Worlds System