The galaxy of the Starfinder RPG expands with this month’s release of Starfinder Near Space, which details dozens of planets and civilizations in this region of the galaxy and includes new starships and a wide selection of character option as well.
Among the many worlds located within Near Space are not only the allied planets of the Pact Worlds, but also the core worlds of the Veskarium, the interplanetary empire of the warlike vesk. While vesk are a relatively common sight in the Pact Worlds and throughout the galaxy, their home system has remained something of a mystery. But no longer! Starfinder Near Space takes us into the Veskarium for the first time, so let’s take a brief look at the vesk empire and its diverse worlds.
Centered around a blue sun called Ghavaniska, the Veskarium is an autocratic empire and military dictatorship with one overarching goal: conquest. Long before the onset of the Gap, the vesk conquered all of the planets of their home system, renaming these worlds after themselves and numbering them in order of their distance from the sun. When the Gap ended, the vesk turned to their well-organized pre-Gap military archives and set about relearning the boundaries of their ancient empire and re-establishing the Veskarium’s dominion over their subject worlds in less than a decade. Vesk dominate the empire and make up the majority of its inhabitants, but the Veskarium encompasses dozens of planets, and their native inhabitants enjoy full citizenship in the empire. Vesk believe they have an obligation to care for their conquered vassals, and while the Veskarium’s laws are strict and draconian, standards of living are high, and most residents of the empire, vesk or not, are content with their lives and support—or at least tolerate—their government.
The closest planet to the sun, Vesk Prime is the vesk home world and the imperial capital of the Veskarium. It is the most densely populated world in the empire, with large, modern cities—like the sprawling metropolis and vast military installation Command Prime—surrounded by huge tracts of cultivated lands and wilderness reserves. Under the leadership of High Despot Vindaskayo Swarmripper, Vesk Prime remains the center of the empire, both politically and culturally. The Veskarium originated here in ages past, when the vesk defeated the other native sapient species of their home world, the caiagaras and the skeraskens, and first proclaimed their empire before expanding to the other worlds of the Ghavaniska system.
Ghavaniska’s second planet, a calm, watery world with a shallow, salty ocean covering much of its surface, was the Veskarium’s first extraplanetary conquest. The squid-like ijtikris are native to Vesk-2, and after centuries of vesk rule, they are highly integrated into Veskarium society. Strange, ancient ruins that predate ijtikri culture dot the scattered islands of Vesk-2 and are an enduring mystery on the planet, hinting at the possibility of another sapient species that inhabited the world in the distant past. Ijtikris have an instinctive aversion to these sites, but vesk have no such compunctions and have explored many of them. The flooded swamp-forests of Vesk-2 are also a center of domesticated defrex ranching in the Veskarium.
A garden world with expansive forests, abundant nutrients from constant volcanic activity, and warm, shallow oceans, Vesk-3 is saturated in a constant, rainy spring. Ostensibly a paradise, Vesk-3 remains one of the Veskarium’s most difficult planets to rule, thanks to its indigenous population of ever-helpful skittermanders. Although they far outnumber their vesk overlords, skittermanders generally don’t seem to understand the significance of their conquest. Their obsequious nature grates on the practical-minded vesk, who commonly joke that skittermanders will eagerly “help” tear down your engine unless you eat them, and even then they’ll stick around and help chew your food. As a result, vesk presence on the planet is mostly confined to one of the planet’s two primary continents, leaving skittermanders largely autonomous in their native lands.
Nicknamed “the Glutton” by early vesk conquerors for its tendency to pull celestial bodies—such as its own moons—into its powerful gravitational field, Vesk-4 is a dense planet with a single landmass teeming with lush jungles, sodden swamplands, and volcanic mountain ranges. Home to an indigenous species of sapient mole‑like creatures called talphi, Vesk-4 is an important hub for mining useful minerals, left behind by millennia of meteorites crashing into the planet. Recently, however, the Veskarium has begun harvesting crystals that can be refined to power solarian weapons, and Vesk-4 now supports an academy specializing in training solarians. Life on Vesk‑4 is generally difficult. Citizens lead austere, regimented lives focused on labor and service, and seismic activity, radiation, and frequent meteorite collisions constantly threaten settlements.
Encircled by bands of red and purple gases, Vesk-5 is the largest planet and the only gas giant in the Ghavaniska system. The planet’s atmosphere surges with powerful lightning storms and pounding hydrogen rain, and its dense, unstable core constantly ejects valuable ore that the Veskarium monopolizes. Nevertheless, daring adventurers called stormrunners dodge military patrol craft and brave Vesk-5’s dangerous atmosphere to “mine” these profitable minerals using gigantic energy nets deployed from their ships, causing the Veskarium to brand them outlaws—a label that many stormrunners adopt as a badge of honor. Vesk-5’s only native sapient species, formians, reside in orbiting hives in the planet’s small, rocky ring system, and most other inhabitants live on the gas giant’s largest moons.
Though distant from the sun, Vesk-6 is an inexplicably warm jungle world with relatively low gravity, towering trees, gigantic insects, and other titanic flora and fauna that struggle ruthlessly with one another to survive. A powerful magnetosphere helps the planet retain its atmosphere, but the magnetic winds it generates devastate many forms of technology, with the result that Vesk-6’s surface remains mostly untamed. The planet’s dominant sapient species, the catlike pahtras, initially resisted the vesk invasion, but they were eventually conquered and incorporated into the Veskarium. Most pahtra nation-states signed treaties with the Veskarium that grant them an unusual amount of autonomy, but some groups of pahtra guerillas continue to battle vesk peacekeepers for the liberation of their home world.
Vesk-7 and Vesk-8
The distant, icy worlds of Vesk-7 and Vesk-8 are the outermost planets of the Ghavaniska system, and a posting to either of them is usually a punishment for dishonored vesk or those exiled for controversial or troublesome political views. The two worlds share virtually the same orbit, though Vesk-7’s orbit is retrograde, and twice each planetary year, the planets’ shared moon, Traverse, transfers its orbit from one world to the other. Magical gates linking the planets and their moon activate at these times, allowing the native kothamas of Vesk-7 and Vesk-8 to travel between them. Vesk-7 hosts a small, nominally independent city of people who want to leave their pasts behind them, while Vesk-8 holds a penal colony established to mine the planet’s valuable shimmerstone deposits.
Initially constructed to address a perceived technological gap between the Veskarium and the Pact Worlds, this massive space platform and shipyard—with a distinctive silhouette reminiscent of a doshko—has the full status of one of the Veskarium’s core worlds, with its own high despot in command. Equipped with banks of mighty thrusters (and even a powerful Drift engine, if rumors are to be believed), Conqueror’s Forge travels throughout Veskarium space, collecting resources for research and production, manufacturing weapons and starships for the Veskarium’s military, and selling its technological developments to other species to fund additional research. One section of the station, officially denied by the Veskarium government and known only by the codename Vesk-9, is devoted to confidential research, advanced experimentation, and other secret projects that remain classified to all but those with the highest security clearances.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse of the worlds and peoples of the Veskarium. If you’d like to learn more about the Veskarium (or other Near Space cultures), pick up a copy of Starfinder Near Space and keep your sensors locked on the Paizo blog and Paizo’s Twitch stream for more previews and behind-the-scenes details of Near Space and Starfinder!
Robert G. McCreary
Starfinder Creative Director