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Alchemaic's page

Goblin Squad Member. Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber. 204 posts. 11 reviews. No lists. No wishlists.

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One Small Step for Starfinder

****( )

Like the core book, this is a fairly well executed book even if it isn't perfect. Unfortunately, unlike the core book, this is absolutely required material to play Starfinder. I can't really take off points for the book coming two months after the release of the game (though I will point out Starfinder is the only system to my knowledge to do that), but it's still not good planning for potential players. That point is moot at this point though.

The book itself has a good amount of imaginative monsters, ranging from gelatinous cubes made of devouring nanobot swarms to starship-sized Devils (who can also turn into starships), and a shockingly large amount of monsters in the book are also statted as possible PC races, which is a nice surprise for any potential player who wants to be something really weird and out there, like a giant floating psychic brain. The book also has a number of quick building rules for monsters and encounters, which with a bit of practice should speed up on-the-fly adjustments for groups who need a bit more of a challenge.

Unfortunately, the book is also very, very short. It clocks in at just over 160 pages total, under half of a normal Pathfinder bestiary. And, unlike Pathfinder, Starfinder doesn't have an expansive previous system it's based on to use for encounters. I have to assume that the book is short mostly due to an unfamiliarity with the Starfinder rules on the part of the writers, but given the extra two months between the book's release date and the core rulebook's release, the book shouldn't have been anywhere near this small, especially as the only real source of encounters currently available for the game. The small size of the book may not be an issue to everyone, but it IS an issue to be aware of, especially if buying the hardcover copy.

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Seen many many times before, but never in this format

**( )( )( )

My two major points about this book are this: 1) It's almost entirely reprints, and 2) It's a campaign setting book.

So for my first point, while I say it's a reprint, at least in this case it makes some degree of sense (though $45 for it really feels like you're being cheated out of your money, the $10 price is much more acceptable). Much of the evil deity material has been stuffed away in the backs of APs or in small segments of Campaign Setting books, so having a book which is more or less complete collection of those bits of information is useful. And even then, at least there's new bits of flavor text to go along with the entries, which makes it not a complete copy+paste job like much of the Adventurer's Guide. Still though, a lot of it (like 1/4-ish of the book) is reprinted boons. There are some new ones, which is nice, but the total amount of new material (including feats, magic items, boons, rituals, and monsters) is barely enough to fill a campaign setting book.

Which brings me to my second point: that this is a campaign setting book masquerading as a core line rulebook. This I blame mostly on page limits, since I believe all the books are restricted to certain numbers of pages, and the amount contained in this book fills almost 300 pages with material. The thing is, probably 1/2 or more of that material is pure fluff. Lots of setting information about the Evil-aligned planes, tons of lore information about the various deities and demigods, and a 30 page "excerpt" from the book of the damned in hard-to-read writing font describing the lower planes again. If all the old material had been completely removed and some of the more verbose sections had been trimmed down, this would fit nicely into a campaign setting book called "Book of the Damned". Even just selling this directly as a campaign setting book would have fit perfectly, since it matches the format of things like Inner Sea Gods, but with a larger pagecount. But this book honestly is probably the least deserving of being put in the core line due to its content being almost entirely fluff. Adventurer's Guide, as much as I disliked that book, was at least full of options for players and fluff was second to that. Aquatic Adventures would be a better fit than this for a core line book.

tl;dr It's a good buy for $10 if you want a collection of Evil deity boons and a smattering of new material, don't buy for $45.

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To Infinity (but not quite beyond)

****( )

The review is fresh so it may take some time before the final result comes to light, but the initial reception is very positive. The Starfinder Core Rulebook is an excellent start, keeping some of the Pathfinder feel while finally breaking away from the chains that tied it to 3.5 and letting it experiment with new design and ideas. Almost everything is well-balanced, and thanks to the modular design of the classes, feats (which have finally gotten rid of massive prerequisite chains!), and equipment, new material can feasibly be added without strange interactions and long chains of requirements that make something nearly impossible to use effectively.

Not everything is perfect of course. The Envoy is the major sticking point on that matter, and while it has some interesting ideas around using its actions to give boosts and buffs to allies, those buffs might be overtuned. Unfortunately we don't have enough material to make a complete judgement, but the bonuses may range between invaluable in combat to completely negligible depending on how the math shakes out. It feels a lot like the original Rogue: keep them around for skills and the occasional help in combat, but you don't miss much if they're not present and they don't work well alone. Other sections in the book, like Feats, feel a bit lacking too, but I imagine that's more due to space restrictions than design issues. Like Pathfinder, once the game has more material out (especially more material for the Envoy) and more room to breathe it'll be fantastic, but right now it's just an excellent start.

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Needed to be more adventurous

****( )

For the most part this is a very solid book. The equipment packages are a great idea for players who want to get started fast without hunting through pages of items for the prices of cheap equipment (and are a good value to boot), I want one of those waifu body pillows for the Butchering Axe, the Poppets are a great idea as cheap, easy-to-build, handy constructs, and I absolutely adore the new equipment tricks. There are also a number of reprinted items, but at least there's enough new material that it doesn't feel as egregious as when the Adventurer's Guide did it.

However, a bunch of the stuff seems like it was toned down or otherwise weakened in the interest of playing it safe. The biggest examples of this are probably the Armor/Weapon Modifications that were included. The basic idea is great, giving some customization options to players who want to add new effects or shiny bells to their equipment, but the system needed more room to grow and display what it could do rather than two pages overall. Most of the armor modifications aren't worth the price for the modification because the effects seem almost nerfed by committee, like the modification which dazzles a creature once per day if they fail a (admittedly good) DC, or the one which has a chance of sickening a creature if they happen to be using power attack and their mother just called last night and complained about how much better their brother is doing as a monster in The Dragon's Crypt, and have they met any nice goblin girls yet? The weapon modifications are a bit better off, but most of the modifications are miniscule bonuses that could have been boiled down to some additions to the Weapon Design Rules (from Weapon Master's Handbook) and a note on how to attach those additions to already existing weapons. As much as I'd want those rules to be expanded and refined into something really worthwhile, they're most likely just going to be forgotten as a bunch of weak non-magical weapon "enchantments".

It just feels... too toned down, in a way that's kind of hard to voice properly. Like the entire book was restrained, or the writers couldn't make a bunch of cool weird items for one reason or another. The first book had the feeling of being a treasure box of items that made your mind spin with the possibilities for each one. This one feels like a store shelf, where everything's been placed out for display in a very specific way, and you're just browsing for something that you want.

tl;dr Not the best book, but it's still fairly solid and has some good ideas and new tricks.

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Surprisingly Heroic

****( )

This is not a well-titled book. When you think of a book with this title, you think of a middling to mediocre heavily flavor-focused book with at best some fluff archetypes that are kind of forgettable after a week or two. What you don’t expect is a whole host of really cool archetypes, flavorful items and abilities that hold up mechanically, and even new options for verbal duels of all things. Not everything’s a slam dunk of course, there’s a few less interesting or questionable archetypes scattered throughout the book (like the Paladin that trades out a bunch of stuff to basically become a Swashbuckler) but there’s also a bunch of really good archetypes included, like the Fighter archetype that gets Strength-based Combat Reflexes, and the Silksworn Occultist, a great archetype for the class that only gets better as it wears increasing amounts of bling.

Definitely worth a look, especially for someone who wants a character that's regal and wants to show it in style.

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