Introducing Starfinder’s Final Core Race: The Shirren!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Two weeks ago we revealed a brand new Starfinder core race, the reptilian vesk, leaving us with just one mystery race left. Now, at long last, we're revealing that final core race: the insectile shirrens!

Shirrens were once part of the Swarm, a monstrous, locust-like race that traveled from world to world, consuming all it encountered before moving on. Generations ago, however, a mysterious mutation caused an entire subcolony to break from the Swarm's hive mind, with each of its members gaining a sense of self. Addicted to the new drug of individualism, these renegades rejected the Swarm's mindless consumption, forming a new race called shirrens that eventually came to settle within the Pact World system.

Illustrations by Remko Troost

Shirrens are arthropods with chitinous exoskeletons, large compound eyes, and sensitive antennae that aid in their telepathy. Unlike many arthropodan races, they walk upright, manipulating items with three-clawed hands. In addition to their two sets of main limbs, they also have two sets of smaller limbs growing from their thoraxes. While often displayed, these “mating arms” are extremely weak and used only for ceremonial and reproductive purposes—to use them for mundane activities would be seen as grotesque and shameful.

Shirrens have three sexes: male, female, and host. During reproduction, female and male shirrens provide the initial eggs and sperm, and hosts incubate the fertilized eggs while also adding their own genetic material and immunities. Shirren young spend their first 2 years in a tiny, wormlike larval form, and are often carried around in protective containers to let them safely observe the world.

Shirrens define themselves by their individualism. When they left the Swarm, they assumed partial control over the neurological pleasure and pain systems by which they were formerly directed, and even generations later, making choices for themselves can literally flood them with pleasurable neurotransmitters. While this ability is not always beneficial—some shirrens deliberately drug themselves this way, becoming “option junkies” blissed out on sequences of trivial decisions—freedom of choice is crucial to shirren identity. At the same time, shirrens remain highly communal, and are valued as collaborators by other races due to their ability to foster teamwork and put the goals of the group first.

All 7 of the core Starfinder player races—humans, androids, kasathas, lashuntas, vesk, shirrens, and ysoki—are joined in the core rulebook by updated versions of Pathfinder's core races, and even more playable races will be following shortly behind in the Alien Archive. Now that the core rulebook is off to the printer, you're going to be seeing a steady stream of Starfinder-related preview blogs right up through the game's launch at Gen Con, so keep your transponders on and open to future transmissions!

James L. Sutter
Creative Director

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Tags: Remko Troost Starfinder
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I am now picturing the different core races being scandalized by one another. We already knew that the Kasatha disapprove of the way other races go around with their mouths fully exposed, while the Shirren are shocked by the way Kasatha expose their lower arms.

I guess that means that the Shirren illustration from the GAMA presentation is pornographic by Shirren standards?


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"While often displayed, these “mating arms”..."

Exposing them isn't a big deal. And I doubt they'd mistake the bulging muscular things the kasatha are using as 'sexy arms.' They'd more likely wonder where everyone else is keeping theirs. Or if the people they see walking around are eunuchs, and the other species are keeping their viable breeders hidden somewhere.

I kinda like the idea of a Shirr (?) wandering around asking the human drones why they come in multiple types, and what their actual males, females and hosts really look like. Bonus points for assuming lashunta, elves and half-elves are yet more genders, drones or castes of the human species, and lamenting at how complicated it all is to keep track of.


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Oh, and since I haven't formally said it yet- Remko Troost is KILLING it with the art we're getting.


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Troodos wrote:
What pronouns do hosts use? I feel like that's important for both role play and not confusing players.

Me, I, we, us, they, them. They will also 'use' she, he, him, her & it. :P

Going off of LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness, the default sex could be neuter with male & female only coming about during mating season. Or using Moffet's Pennterra it goes the other way, when a 'neuter' gets pregnant and becomes 'parent'. Considering 'host' and carrieng their young around for a couple years, this is how I saw it. & plural pronouns seem a safe bet for now. EDIT: I assumed the containers were biological, but on re-read, mechanical containers is probably accurate.

Using LeGuin & Moffet might not be intended, but Paizo's sci-fi/fantasy cultural literacy is a large part of why they continue to impress me. :)

Dark Archive

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Rosgakori wrote:
I'm totally gonna make a Shirren assassin. "I just love killing!"

DM: What's your character's name?

Me: Krombopulos Michael
DM: Get out. Just, just take your stuff and leave.
Me: Yeah, okay that's fair...

Dark Archive

If I wasn't hooked before I am now!


KSF wrote:
Interesting. This sounds a lot like the concept of the ludic loop that I just read about in a New York Times article.

When I read that, I was actually thinking that many Shirren must be on a near-constant high, just judging by the tremendous number of options available to us pre-trans-light cultures here on modern day Earth. "Overchoice" is a concept that's been around for a long time, and there are a lot of psychological studies on how it can overwhelm just regular old, non-choice-stimulated humans.

Also, when I read this:

"Addicted to the new drug of individualism, these renegades rejected the Swarm's mindless consumption..."

I initially read that last word as "consumerism," which put a whole different spin on the Swarm. ("It's a vast shopping hive mind, that visits planets and devastates their economies, leaving nothing in its wake!")

Then again, when I read this:

"While often displayed, these “mating arms” are extremely weak and used only for ceremonial and reproductive purposes..."

I thought- drinking alcohol often plays a part in the reproductive process/mating ritual among humans, so can these guys hold their beer in their mating arms? :D


David knott 242 wrote:

I guess that means that the Shirren illustration from the GAMA presentation is pornographic by Shirren standards?

We're seeing it out of context. Maybe the Shirren in the picture was propositioning one of the other characters...


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THEY'RE ADORABLE!

I want a buddy cop pair of a shirren and vesk...


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"So... how many different shades of blue can I paint my gun again?"

I can so see that trait becoming extremely annoying or incredibly hilarious in the wrong/right hands. Imagine a Shirren mechanic with the handles of all their tools lavishly colored and every new purchase results in several hours just deciding what color to paint the handle. Do I want red or do I want blue?


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"We do what we must, because we can."


So, host Shirren iconic?


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I miss them, sometimes. Like when there's not enough to eat.


TerminalArtiste wrote:

THEY'RE ADORABLE!

I want a buddy cop pair of a shirren and vesk...

Vesk: "Greetings new partner. My name is Kartchak."

Shirren: *snort* *snicker*

Vesk: "What is it? What is funny?"

Shirren: "Oh. Please forgive. Your name, it sounds like 'Kthar'k'chak' in my language."

Vesk: "Really. What does that mean?"

Shirren: "You don't want to know."

Dark Archive

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Matthew Shelton wrote:


Referencing someone in pronoun by gender is habitual in human culture

So context, but I like to imagine you just said Finns aren't humans :D

Scarab Sages

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If you give a Shirren one of those "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" books, is that "pushing?"


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I'm Hiding In Your Closet wrote:
If you give a Shirren one of those "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" books, is that "pushing?"

I have a feeling Shirren would love playing tabletop role playing games. "My level 1 Shirren has a level 20 human sorcerer."


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The shirren army would have succeeded, if it weren't for the pesky mesmerist and his Harrow deck.

"Pick a card, any card," he said, and promptly froze them in their tracks.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Cthulhudrew wrote:
KSF wrote:
Interesting. This sounds a lot like the concept of the ludic loop that I just read about in a New York Times article.

When I read that, I was actually thinking that many Shirren must be on a near-constant high, just judging by the tremendous number of options available to us pre-trans-light cultures here on modern day Earth. "Overchoice" is a concept that's been around for a long time, and there are a lot of psychological studies on how it can overwhelm just regular old, non-choice-stimulated humans.

Also, when I read this:

"Addicted to the new drug of individualism, these renegades rejected the Swarm's mindless consumption..."

I initially read that last word as "consumerism," which put a whole different spin on the Swarm. ("It's a vast shopping hive mind, that visits planets and devastates their economies, leaving nothing in its wake!")

Then again, when I read this:

"While often displayed, these “mating arms” are extremely weak and used only for ceremonial and reproductive purposes..."

I thought- drinking alcohol often plays a part in the reproductive process/mating ritual among humans, so can these guys hold their beer in their mating arms? :D

The Hive: "Didn't we banish you to Foodcourtia?"

Zim: "Oh I quit that."
The Hive: "You QUIT being BANISHED?"


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CorvusMask wrote:
Matthew Shelton wrote:


Referencing someone in pronoun by gender is habitual in human culture

So context, but I like to imagine you just said Finns aren't humans :D

I've been to Minnesota. Based on all evidence available, Finns, Sweds, and Nords are not human because they can live comfortably in Minnesota.

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Hey, if they can live comfortably in Windhelm and Winterhold, Minnesota can't be that bad.


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CorvusMask wrote:
So context, but I like to imagine you just said Finns aren't humans :D

For which they should be profoundly grateful!

Scarab Sages

I already love this race.


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There had better be a picture of a trio of loving Shirren parents with their grub babies in a little terrarium stroller when the book comes out. So cute!

Scarab Sages

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Oneris wrote:
There had better be a picture of a trio of loving Shirren parents with their grub babies in a little terrarium stroller when the book comes out. So cute!

Seconded!

Liberty's Edge

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MISTER MIND !!!

And I dig all the info we can deduce about the Swarm based on the Shirren. Excellent

How long does a Shirren generation last BTW ?


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^Thirded!

* * * * * * * *

With respect to choice addiction, I can certainly imagine Shirren commonly falling for stores sporting fancy crowded display windows.

Liberty's Edge

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Yayyyyyy! And I really can't emphasize my joy enough through text alone. But I've been waiting for an official insectoid race from Pathfinder. While sadface that its in Starfinder in Pathfinder, it does make a lot more sense to have them in the scifi setting. Looking forward to playing as one!


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"Two sexes? And you guys keep your bones on the inside? Man you guys are a weird race. Also, how do you see without compound eyes? I mean, you only have one lens in those things."


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Oh wow, a close look at the Shirren in red reveals you can see at least one pair of those mating arms. They're like praying mantis limbs, or tiny scythes. Cool detail


I find myself oddly annoyed by them being described as arthropods. Insect is perfectly acceptable, describes what they are, and doesn't mean they're being described at the phylum level which if applied generally means humans and Vesk are both being called chordates.


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I just realized the Shirren with the red armor has some silver decorations on their mating arms... Is that the Shirren equivalent of "intimate" jewelry? Should we mammals really be seeing this?

Liberty's Edge

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I believe showing them off is okay. So similar to tatoos on sexy but visible body parts on humans


Yes. This sorta race is what I was hoping for.

Anyone know if they've said how easy it'd be to convert starfinder races to Pathfinder?

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Bluenose wrote:
I find myself oddly annoyed by them being described as arthropods. Insect is perfectly acceptable, describes what they are, and doesn't mean they're being described at the phylum level which if applied generally means humans and Vesk are both being called chordates.

Insect would be the wrong class for an eight-limbed alien. And I wouldn't call them particularly arachnid. There is a limit to how specific you can be the further you get from Earth biology.


So me and my buddies have been talking about this game for a while, and are already planning out our party. Right now our group plan is: two Ysoki twins (envoy and technomancer, envoy being the captain of le ship), a Kasatha mechanic, a Human operative (think black ops), and now I have decided to be... a Shirren hipster. Complete with a boombox, denim jacket, fake dreads and beard, a wool cap, and cargo pants. We decided to go either mystic or just tranfer over the bard class.


Brew Bird wrote:
I just realized the Shirren with the red armor has some silver decorations on their mating arms... Is that the Shirren equivalent of "intimate" jewelry? Should we mammals really be seeing this?

Maybe it's a Shirren version of the lower back tattoo. Not taboo, but suggestive.


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Fantastic way to round out the Core Races! Without a doubt, this is the first PC I'll roll as well.


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Oh wow, looking back at those slides from the other day, I just realized the Mystic iconic is, in fact, the Shirren. I cannot begin to say how much I love that, and find it fascinating :D


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Sooo been waiting for this! The flavor for Shirren is better than anything I expected. The "option junkie" bit was particularly funny. I can't decide now whether I want to play a Shirren or an Android for my first campaign. Decisions!

So, being terribly obtuse and ignorant of Shirren anatomy, I am entirely unable to tell whether we are observing two different Shirren sexes in this post or one. At GAMA, we got a peek at what I assume to be an alternate Shirren sex:

https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-3VgP44iw_08/WMy4rddVa0I/AAAAAAAAAEs/l5QfqXNvyL8_ XV69Tjd2HeIkPQY2c2rrQCLcB/s1600/12662.jpg

Kind of looks like a cat. I am okay with this. Can anybody confirm whether the Shirren displayed above are male, female or host?

Also, any chance we might get more write ups for the various races between now and August? We've yet to see proper art of a Lashunta since this game was announced, despite having artwork depicting every other core race. After Erik and Crystal's recent teases about how Lashunta culture has evolved since Pathfinder days, I'm more intrigued than ever to learn about them.


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"Option junkies." They love to make minute and trivial decisions.

(Looks at my houserule and allowed book list.)

... Me too buddy. Me too.


Will there be any mechanical effect from their "pleasure of choices", and if so any alternate traits for a more traditional sort of bug folk?

Seriously, all I can see shirren doing is causing problems because "You're not my host! Don't tell me what to do!" Though I suppose the "gets along with everyone and puts the group first" is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too way around that.


CorvusMask wrote:
Matthew Shelton wrote:


Referencing someone in pronoun by gender is habitual in human culture

So context, but I like to imagine you just said Finns aren't humans :D

Oh sure. And the Swedes must be so proud of their hens.


BMO wrote:
Yayyyyyy! And I really can't emphasize my joy enough through text alone. But I've been waiting for an official insectoid race from Pathfinder. While sadface that its in Starfinder in Pathfinder, it does make a lot more sense to have them in the scifi setting. Looking forward to playing as one!

I would say pull a "Divinity" and make your ancient shirren crashland on ancient Golarion, but it's unclear when their maverick mutation happened. Still, the shirren that you play might be among the very first to arrive.


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RogueMortal wrote:

Will there be any mechanical effect from their "pleasure of choices", and if so any alternate traits for a more traditional sort of bug folk?

Seriously, all I can see shirren doing is causing problems because "You're not my host! Don't tell me what to do!" Though I suppose the "gets along with everyone and puts the group first" is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too way around that.

To be suitable player characters, the Shirren require free will -- they cannot be part of a hostile hive mind.

However, since they derive pleasure from making choices, I can see them getting overly excited over choices that do not really matter, or for which there is obviously a single right answer with numerous inferior alternatives. I would guess that one sign of maturity among them would be learning to focus on the choices that actually matter even if they don't come along as often as they would like.


RogueMortal wrote:

Will there be any mechanical effect from their "pleasure of choices", and if so any alternate traits for a more traditional sort of bug folk?

Seriously, all I can see shirren doing is causing problems because "You're not my host! Don't tell me what to do!" Though I suppose the "gets along with everyone and puts the group first" is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too way around that.

If there was ever a point to adding a 'useless trivia' skill, this race would be the reason. :)


David knott 242 wrote:


To be suitable player characters, the Shirren require free will -- they cannot be part of a hostile hive mind.

However, since they derive pleasure from making choices, I can see them getting overly excited over choices that do not really matter, or for which there is obviously a single right answer with numerous inferior alternatives. I would guess that one sign of maturity among them would be learning to focus on the choices that actually matter even if they don't come along as often as they would like.

A fine point about hostile hive minds, but other insect races have certainly existed without being such things. Thri-kreen spring to mind, and Dragon Magazine had a race that while normally hive minded, could adapt to individuality if seperated from it. Or maybe those were robots, it was a decade ago. And those are just two of more than a few from d20 games. Not to mention many hive dwellers are't nearly as much mindless cogs as they seem. Bees are actually quite democratic and ants have tirned out to be along the lines of "anarchists with common goals".

For now I take it that the shirren will not have a more traditional option though.

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RogueMortal wrote:
Seriously, all I can see shirren doing is causing problems because "You're not my host! Don't tell me what to do!" Though I suppose the "gets along with everyone and puts the group first" is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too way around that.

Just don't give them direct orders, and you'd be fine. Phrase everything as a choice between two superficially different options. The same as dealing with young children.


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The problem is that the hive mind in question here is the main antagonist of the setting, the Swarm.

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