Designing the Starfinder Beginner Box

Monday, May 6, 2019

As excited as we were to construct the Starfinder Beginner Box as a fun, intuitive, and effective introduction to the Starfinder universe, we were also daunted by the challenges of trying to make a complete game that did justice to something we first presented in a 528-page rulebook. Even just the Tactical Rules chapter of the Starfinder Core Rulebook is more than 50 pages long, which would eat up more than a quarter of the pagecount we had in the Beginner Box rulebooks that also needed a solo adventure, introductory adventure, an introduction to numerous RPG concepts, advice, character classes, setting material, and so much more.

Early on we had to make some tough decisions about what our goal was for this product, and how our goal would inform our design choices. One of the things we wanted this product to do was serve as both an introduction to Roleplaying Games in general, and an introduction to the most key concepts of Starfinder in particular. When we were discussing which rules to keep, which to alter, and which to cut entirely, we had to balance those design goals with things like the limitations of our page count, wanting to be playable quickly from the time the box is opened, and giving enough material that a group could continue to play with their GM making new adventures once all the pre-written encounters have been experienced. That lead to the decision to create a one page set of rules for modifying and even building enemy creatures from scratch, so GMs would not be limited to the small number of creatures we had room to present with full stat blocks.

Some decisions were based on a combination of concerns. We felt we wanted to have as many of the playable races and classes from the Core Rulebook as possible, but knew we could do all the core races, and legacy races, and all the classes, especially given we wanted each class to tell you how to build a character. In the end, we decided we needed to cut at least one class, and the solarian was clearly the one that needed the most complex explanations of its different rules. Since our iconic solarian is a kastha, we also removed that as a playable race so all our remaining iconics could represent one class and one race.

In other cases, we had goals that drove us to add additional components. The desire for the game to be a complete experience in a box meant it had to have dice, and character pawns, and a map. Joe Pasini specifically had the great idea to add player reference cards with things like the actions a character to take each turn clearly spelled out. We hadn't originally planned to have that kind of stand-alone player aid, but it was immediately apparent how useful that would be to simplifying the process of being able to play and learn the game, so we took the time to design them and added them to the components box!

It's also important to acknowledge how much we leaned on the design choices of people who have made entry-level boxed sets before us. Many of the Starfinder team have fond memories of some specific early introduction to RPGs, and we discussed what made those experiences fun and memorable, and what we thought we could improve upon. The fantastic work done on the 1st-edition Pathfinder Beginner Box was a crucial road map for us, and while we often decided to take different twists and turns in our design challenge, it was extremely useful to have such a successful product as a starting point, allowing us to stand on the shoulders of giants.

Owen K.C. Stephens
Starfinder Design Lead

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Tags: Starfinder Starfinder Beginner Box

I appreciate the attempt to make the game more accessible to newcomers. Hopefully the box is filled with links to the helpful videos on how to get started.


I'm looking forward to this! I am curious to know whether the map will include the layout of a spaceship. Would be a cool adventure site as well as a resource for the party. Ive also wanted to have a spaceship flip mat for campaigns I may run.

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder

The Rot Grub wrote:
I'm looking forward to this! I am curious to know whether the map will include the layout of a spaceship. Would be a cool adventure site as well as a resource for the party. Ive also wanted to have a spaceship flip mat for campaigns I may run.

The Flip-Mat in the Beginner Box has a map that goes with the adventure in the box, and is blank on the other side so GMs can draw the maps for their own adventures. It does not feature a starship map, but we do have several starship Flip-Mats available separately.


Starfinder Charter Superscriber

My son and I ran the intro adventure on Saturday and had a blast. I think it's a really well-designed box--good work guys!

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

I really like the box from what I've read through so far, the only thing I'm unsure about is the fact that there is no Stamina. Some of the skills (specifically Envoy) give back Stamina usually, but now give back Health so if they upgrade to the full Core Rulebook it might be an issue as they are unsure what is happening.

I guess that was a really tough decision, as you mentioned, you had to make a bunch of those decisions.

It will be interesting to see how either experienced players deal with it (I know I know, this isn't designed for them) or for newer players who upgrade to Society and then have to deal with Stamina.

Overall however, very excited for this and I'll be using it for my local store to help boost player numbers! It looks fantastic though, super enthusiastic!


Starfinder Superscriber

Can't wait for this thing to get SFS sanctioning.

Paizo Employee Developer

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This product is great! I've been using it to introduce my kids (ages 10, 8, and 8) to roleplaying (aka, "Daddy's work"). We only do a couple rooms of the intro adventure at a time, and they're really starting to get the hang of it.


Starfinder Charter Superscriber

You're lucky--my kid (who's also 8) forced me to run the whole intro adventure in one afternoon. Steel Talon was too tough though, and escaped to make havoc another day!

Grand Lodge

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will we see GM/Player incentive boons like the original BB?

The BB Promo weekend boon got me into Pathfinder


I'm a new player and a new GM for a group of new players, yea. Anyways, didn't want sword and board I like lasers so picked up this box. Loved it, decided to do a deep dive. Bought PDFs of core/armory etc. My biggest concern (slighty allayed now) is there are a lot if differences between the two sets of rules. No stamina, less neg conditions, less skills, even character gen the way abilities are derived. My concern is this, I like the box rules, seem simpler/streamlined. But seeing core I don't want to teach box unless it's the future.


conciergevii wrote:
I'm a new player and a new GM for a group of new players, yea. Anyways, didn't want sword and board I like lasers so picked up this box. Loved it, decided to do a deep dive. Bought PDFs of core/armory etc. My biggest concern (slighty allayed now) is there are a lot if differences between the two sets of rules. No stamina, less neg conditions, less skills, even character gen the way abilities are derived. My concern is this, I like the box rules, seem simpler/streamlined. But seeing core I don't want to teach box unless it's the future.

I am sorry to say, but if it is anything like the Pathfinder Beginner Box plan there won't be anything additional for the beginner box. When Paizo released the Pathfinder one, I bought into it. I liked the simple rules. For it they released two free add ons that they weren't able to fit into the box. They added another class, a few more gods, monsters, spells, and a simple 5 encounter adventure.

From my inquiry regarding the Starfinder Beginner Box in these same forums, nothing was developed that didn't make it into the box. So we probably won't get anything additional using the simpler rules of the beginner box. Which is a shame for me because I prefer the more streamlined rules presented in these beginner boxes. They are the only game products that I have purchased from Paizo and I make use of them. They are quality products.

Now if they would only release a PDF of the Starfinder Beginner Box character sheet.


BRYAN MOORE wrote:

will we see GM/Player incentive boons like the original BB?

The BB Promo weekend boon got me into Pathfinder

Agreed. The "cutting room floor" material was awesome.

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