New Paths Among the Stars: Compatibility Between Starfinder and Pathfinder

Monday, June 5, 2017

Starfinder is a complete roleplaying game, and can be played on its own without ever referring to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It is based on Pathfinder, of course, and shares many similarities with its older cousin, but in many cases Starfinder handles specific issues differently than Pathfinder. We've mentioned several times that Pathfinder is easily integrated into Starfinder, and that there's some level of compatibility between the two games, but we haven't been very specific on exactly how easy it'll be to add Starfinder cybernetics to Pathfinder fire giants, or port Pathfinder character classes and races into a Starfinder campaign. Those questions are likely to take more than one blog post to cover, but we wanted to at least begin going into greater detail about how we envision these two games working together.

Illustration by Hugh Pindur

Starfinder should feel very familiar to experienced Pathfinder players, and much of the overall play experience is similar. Despite changes like iterative attacks for high base attack bonuses being replaced by universal full attacks allowing two attacks both at -4, or breaking hit points into two pools of Stamina Points and Hit Points, most of the general rules of the game are close enough to make it easy to see how to convert a specific option from one class to another. The most common specific tweaks to combat are covered in the Starfinder Core Rulebook, specifically Chapter 13: Pathfinder Legacy. This chapter presents the information a GM needs to convert between the two games when dealing with questions of bonus types, actions in combat, CMB/CMD vs EAC/KAC, damage, ability scores, and so on. A GM wishing to take griefgalls from Bestiary 5 and use them for an invasion of Absalom Station should have no trouble adapting the monster to Starfinder use. In fact, given that both Starfinder and Pathfinder inhabit the same fictional universe, we specifically designed the game so that you could use monsters from one in the other on the fly, with little conversion—after all, a keketar protean is a keketar protean regardless of system, and this way we can focus on creating cool new creatures for Starfinder rather than just converting all the old standards.

For things like magic items, spells, feats, equipment, and other player-facing options, conversion can be more difficult and have more hidden pitfalls. One of the hardest questions a GM will need to answer is if something from one game system even should be introduced to the other. For instance, Starfinder and Pathfinder make different assumptions about when in a campaign various options first appear, and when they become commonplace. This means that introducing a new options from one of the games into a campaign using the other set of rules can have consequences well beyond how well the two sets of game rules interact mechanically.

For example, every first-level Starfinder character is likely to have armor that protects against extremes of temperature and pressure, and provides breathable air, thus protecting them from gaseous poisons or even complete vacuum for up to 24 hours. In Pathfinder, that level of protection isn't available until much higher level, and many characters never acquire it. While the rules for extreme environments are similar enough that a character from either game can make the appropriate saving throws (and understand how to apply the effects of failing those saves), a Pathfinder game that introduces items and abilities designed for Starfinder is going to bypass or neutralize a lot of common Pathfinder threats and encounters. Similar issues arise when discussing movement, flight, senses, ranged attacks, access to energy damage, and even the ease with which non-spellcasters can access magic abilities.

Those differences in assumptions alter how items and options from one game will impact campaigns using the other game's base rules. Even with the differences between Armor Class rules in the two games, it's not hard to figure out how a suit of ceremonial vesk overplate with a jet pack and infrared sensors would operate in Pathfinder—but the impact it would have on a typical Pathfinder game is much higher than the low level of those options in Starfinder would suggest.

Similarly, the two games also use different methods to produce the numerical values characters and monsters use to interact with one another. This often includes math that is (quite intentionally) behind the scenes, and thus not particularly obvious. For example, Starfinder does its best to not require characters to constantly get higher and higher enhancement bonuses to attack rolls, damage, and armor class, or resistance bonuses to saving throws. As a result, there's no option to create a +1 plasma cannon in Starfinder, since the additional math isn't needed. Thus adding magic to Starfinder gear is always about gaining some cool new option or ability rather than just numbers. It would be easy to determine how to port such rules over from Pathfinder, but doing so would create imbalances, since the new game is designed to function without most pure bonus-boosters.

For races, these issues are much less likely to cause significant issues. We already provide full Starfinder write-ups for dwarves, elves, gnomes, halflings, half-elves and half-orcs in the Pathfinder Legacy chapter of Starfinder. Those races still exist in the Pact Worlds, they just aren't as common as they were in Golarion-focused games using Pathfinder. Converting other Pathfinder races should be straightforward, and unlikely to cause major problems. In fact, some races that don't fit well in most Pathfinder games may be less disruptive to a Starfinder campaign!

Pathfinder classes are going to be the element it is most difficult to move to a Starfinder campaign, and require some work on the part of a GM, both in understanding how Starfinder handles various kinds of abilities and in looking for places where problems might crop up from unbalanced bonuses that Starfinder doesn't need or abilities that lack the support in one game system or the other. Of course, we tried to make sure common character tropes could be created in Starfinder, even if they're built differently than their Pathfinder equivalents. While there's no straight-up paladin analogue in Starfinder, a soldier with the priest theme, phrenic adept archetype, and various psychic power feats can certainly take the role of a religious champion with access to both martial skills and magic powers.

If nothing but the original Pathfinder classes will satisfy, however, the Pathfinder Legacy section gives what guidance we could manage for GMs wanting to port Pathfinder classes directly over. Questions of key ability scores, stamina points, skill points, weapon and armor proficiency and specialization, and other common core game mechanics are easy, and we mostly spell them out. When it comes to tougher questions like class features, eidolons, animal companions, familiars, class spell lists and 7th-9th level spells, bardic performance, and even flurry of blows we give advice, but it'll be up to each GM to decide exactly how to implement that advice.

In many ways, all of Pathfinder is like a series of "Starfinder Unchained" books—optional rules and subsystems a GM can adapt or not as appropriate for their game and their own desire to tinker. Our first priority was always to make Starfinder the best game it could be on its own, with as many robust options as we could make fit without overcomplicating it. Yet its underlying game engine remains close enough to Pathfinder that anyone who wants to adopt or convert materials from those sources to Starfinder should be able to do so with a minimum of effort.

Owen KC Stephens
Developer

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Varun Creed wrote:
daphnetrodon wrote:
I read a couple interviews with brief mentions of ways to get druid-style spellcasting in Starfinder, and I'm curious as to how they'll handle the aspect of druids I was more concerned about: wild shape. If converting creatures back and forth is relatively easy, then I imagine I can still create something similar to a wild shape druid in Starfinder as long as an ability that lets me turn into an animal (or alien, in this context) exists. Any word on shapeshifting in Starfinder?

The Mystic probably has a Beast Shape spell on his list.

But for longer durations, in a sci-fi game, I would expect shapeshifting to be a racial ability.

Granted. I haven't heard about any shapeshifting racial or class abilities, not to mention spells, hence the question.


For a racial ability it would seem a lit strong to me
spells seem the way to go
but I sure wouldn't mind a class that can shapeshift
the mystic seems the most likely choice...maybe as one of the talent class abilities


Are there rules to create new playable races in the CRB?

The core races sure are cool, as are pathfinder core. But in a space exploring setting, I suppose we will need dozens and dozens of races to represent the main inhabitants of the many planets out there. And if we can build our own planets, rules to create inhabitants will be pretty much useful.

If it's ease to port races from Pathfinder to Starfinder, than it would be even better.


Seisho wrote:

For a racial ability it would seem a lit strong to me

spells seem the way to go
but I sure wouldn't mind a class that can shapeshift
the mystic seems the most likely choice...maybe as one of the talent class abilities

All the cool things being spells was the biggest problem of Pathfinder in the first place. I really hope that won't be the case in Starfinder.


Mashallah wrote:
Seisho wrote:

For a racial ability it would seem a lit strong to me

spells seem the way to go
but I sure wouldn't mind a class that can shapeshift
the mystic seems the most likely choice...maybe as one of the talent class abilities
All the cool things being spells was the biggest problem of Pathfinder in the first place. I really hope that won't be the case in Starfinder.

Agreed, why cant martials learn to cut space and time? :P

But i do wonder, will we have the same classifications of (EX) (SP) (SLA)? a tech device that generates a force field or recombinates dna, is that (EX) or are we in a tagless system now?

Either way i hope narrative influence isnt so heavily restricted to the realm of magic.


But I still think it's cool that everyone can have additional (cyber?)limbs
adds a whole lot of freedom for making characters and probably a lot of utility


I was honestly really really hoping that they'd do away with ability scores entirely and just have the ability modifier.

Such an easy bit of streamlinging to do! We use the modifier for almost everything anyway! Having a SCORE and a derived MODIFIER just seems like some legacy cruft to me :|


Azih wrote:

I was honestly really really hoping that they'd do away with ability scores entirely and just have the ability modifier.

Such an easy bit of streamlinging to do! We use the modifier for almost everything anyway! Having a SCORE and a derived MODIFIER just seems like some legacy cruft to me :|

On one hand i agree that having the full score is not all that nessacary anymore. i think in AD&D there were instances were you would roll a D20 and try to match or roll lower than your score to pass... but its been close to twenty years since that was the main edition. (wow, feeling old now!) But using the full stat still comes in a few ways, for one it makes rolling a lot easier for those who still use that method. Another is that encumbrance still needs granularity that the larger numbers provide (not that everyone uses those rules but still..) They also make it a lot easier to have ability penalties or ability damage. And scaling is more controllable when it takes a two point difference to shift.

In the end i think i like having the added granularity.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Azih wrote:

I was honestly really really hoping that they'd do away with ability scores entirely and just have the ability modifier.

Such an easy bit of streamlinging to do! We use the modifier for almost everything anyway! Having a SCORE and a derived MODIFIER just seems like some legacy cruft to me :|

Keeping the ability score does help maintain compatibility with Pathfinder at a very low overhead cost -- and there may still be some game mechanics in which the actual score matters.

Otherwise, the only problem I would see with using the modifier alone without the ability score is explaining why -5 is the lowest legal ability modifier.

Liberty's Edge

My preference for the numbers system is that it doesn't feel right to have an ordinary person, healthy and happy, walking around with Strength and Constitution 0.


It is all personal preference of course and it's a fun discussion to have.

It's just, man, having two sets of numbers one of which can be derived exactly from another, is just so very very redundant. It raises the barrier of entry for new players and takes up space on the character sheet, making it more intimidating. You get used to it of course but it's definitely a thing and it makes the ability score tables a bit harder to read as well. Every bit of ease helps.

I'm also convinced though that we'd all get used to the change really fast (tweaks would have to encumberance and dying/dead rules of course but not that many.)

Knott: For me "If any of your ability scores hit -5 you're dead/in a coma!" is very easy and a very nice explanation :)

Shisumo: I think it becomes very clear the first time you need to make a Strength check and the barbarian gets to use his +4 modifier/score while your bard gets no bonus at all because of the 'zero' strength while the minmaxing wizard gets a -2.


You'd have to rework a lot of things to get rid of the Ability Score/Ability Modifier dynamic. Ability damage would have to be reworked. If you had a 5 Con, you'd be dead at -20HP, but you could also not be dead until at -21, or if you have a 0 Con, you're dead at -10/-11. Sure you could work out a formula for it, but it's much easier to say you're dead when your HP = -Con. Encumbrance would have to be reworked. Lets not forget that in Path/Starfinder a part of leveling up is increasing Ability Scores, and sometimes you increase an Ability Score without increasing your Modifier, so that will have to be addressed. Do you just give the power boost to the PC's? How does that affect combat math (can be much more beneficial to Martial types than caster types)?

Check out Mutants and Masterminds 2nd and 3rd Edition for examples of what I'm talking about.


Shisumo wrote:
My preference for the numbers system is that it doesn't feel right to have an ordinary person, healthy and happy, walking around with Strength and Constitution 0.

In Mutants and Masterminds 0 would always be human average while the scores could go to -5 (and basically no limit in the other direction) So that would be no problem for me


So if you took 1 pt of strength damage, how would that represent without the score? Or if you get the boost at level 4 and 8 and 12, are those 1/2 boosts? Then reverse compatibility... much easier to keep the scores

Liberty's Edge

Seisho wrote:
Shisumo wrote:
My preference for the numbers system is that it doesn't feel right to have an ordinary person, healthy and happy, walking around with Strength and Constitution 0.
In Mutants and Masterminds 0 would always be human average while the scores could go to -5 (and basically no limit in the other direction) So that would be no problem for me

Well, it's definitely a question of personal preference, but I don't really like it much in M&M either. It bothers me less there than it would in a hypothetical Pathfinder 2.0 (for instance), but that's just because so rarely do you have a PC with a 0 in any of their scores.


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Milo v3 wrote:
Sounds good (though I will always find it weird when cultures will make tonnes of different weapon enchantments and never think up "Hit harder" or "make me more accurate" as enchantments).

Truthfully, there are other ways to represent 'more accurate' and 'hit harder' than straight-up '+1's, and the game may be pursuing those - dice rerolls, removal of penalties in certain conditions, etc. and it sounds like that's what they're pursuing.

A lot of our PF games have been stopping around 10th to 12th level... honestly, due to math and option fatigue, more than being tired of the story or changing rosters. Hopefully, slowing bonus progression over the whole system will help that for our group.


Steven "Troll" O'Neal wrote:
Balderdash! I knew a guy who forgot his towel, we call him Louder. Went deaf from listening to vogon poetry, wouldn't have happened if he had a towel to muffle it.

Dammit, I _so_ want to give my players an improbability drive now. By its very nature it wouldn't even need to be statted out, either. :)


ENHenry wrote:
Steven "Troll" O'Neal wrote:
Balderdash! I knew a guy who forgot his towel, we call him Louder. Went deaf from listening to vogon poetry, wouldn't have happened if he had a towel to muffle it.
Dammit, I _so_ want to give my players an improbability drive now. By its very nature it wouldn't even need to be statted out, either. :)

The Drift is basically improbability drive lite.


QuidEst wrote:
ENHenry wrote:
Steven "Troll" O'Neal wrote:
Balderdash! I knew a guy who forgot his towel, we call him Louder. Went deaf from listening to vogon poetry, wouldn't have happened if he had a towel to muffle it.
Dammit, I _so_ want to give my players an improbability drive now. By its very nature it wouldn't even need to be statted out, either. :)
The Drift is basically improbability drive lite.

Random encounter roll table excerpt:

41 - Goblin Warship
42 - Sperm Whale spontaneously exists
43 - Bowl of Petunias spontaneously exists
44 - Shirren Trading Vessel


EDIT: Oops, wrong thread!


ENHenry wrote:


Random encounter roll table excerpt:

41 - Goblin Warship
42 - Sperm Whale spontaneously exists
43 - Bowl of Petunias spontaneously exists
44 - Shirren Trading Vessel

...

57 - Bowl of Goblins spontaneously exists


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Distant Scholar wrote:
ENHenry wrote:


Random encounter roll table excerpt:

41 - Goblin Warship
42 - Sperm Whale spontaneously exists
43 - Bowl of Petunias spontaneously exists
44 - Shirren Trading Vessel

...

57 - Bowl of Goblins spontaneously exists

{1d4 ⇒ 1 baby goblins adjust their glasses sagely} If cats are liquids that seek their own containers, space goblins are oobleck.


TheGoofyGE3K wrote:
So if you took 1 pt of strength damage, how would that represent without the score? Or if you get the boost at level 4 and 8 and 12, are those 1/2 boosts? Then reverse compatibility... much easier to keep the scores

There definitely would have to be adjustments. But considering the number of changes that are already in Starfinder (such as AC, and the entire Hit point system with Three different pools of health now!) this is a very mechanical change that isn't that hard to adjust in other places.

Starfinder is QUITE different from Pathfinder so this would have been an amazing place to just sand away a legacy artifact of having two numbers for each ability.


It is now Nov 2018, and I dont really see Starfinder and Pathfinder combining. The consensus seems to be that it's like combining Pathfinder and 3.5 because although they look similar on the surface, the mechanics just wont add up without a ton of work.

I just thought I'd commemorate this for the launch of Pathfinder 2nd Edition.

Exo-Guardians

Mine all mine...don't touch wrote:
Stats needed for the pan galactic gargle blaster

A 20th level posion that requires a DC 20 fort and will save in conjunction and failure results in taking mental damage equal to a gold brick wrapped lemon

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