Although still in an embryonic stage, this past week I've been tinkering with ideas for grafting d20 Modern's wealth system to Starfinder. I get the impression that I'm in a minority of people who see entertainment value in that particular game mechanic, but the more I thought about things I prefer about d20 Modern/Future and wish had been incorporated in Starfinder, the more the system of wealth checks appealed to me.
I acknowledge the system has drawbacks and that it won't appeal to everyone, so I'm not suggesting it as an idea to "fix" Starfinder. The way I'm currently looking at using it will be to reflect exactly the kinds of mundane financial interactions that Vertasi brought up in the original question. My goal is to avoid minute bookkeeping on the one hand but to provide a quick, flexible game mechanic on the other that abstractly simulates the use of credit, savings, and other modern financial tools for a variety of things like those Vertasi mentions.
This system would exist parallel to the existing system which, many have argued, is, itself, more of an abstract resource balancing system for the PCs than a simulated way for representing economic activity.
If I'm successful, and it flows smoothly during game play without too much wrangling or fuss, it will give me a foothold on my larger ambitions to fuse more material from d20 Modern/Future into Starfinder.
I like this approach as well. It emphasizes the narrative purpose of the rules hack while simultaneously adjusting for the inevitable skewing of the numbers that will occur at higher levels; all without performing a major overhaul of the entire game system.
"Dr." Cupi wrote:
I would definitely double-plus this request. I have made a few attempts at creating one for myself. My most recent attempt is my favorite so far. I took a high-res image of the Milky Way galaxy and started placing systems on it in Photoshop. Blue dots for Near Space systems and purple ones for Vast systems. Without spending too many hours scouring the various published sources again, I'm doing my best to infer the relative positions of different systems to each other, combined with a bit of my own whimsy and logic.
They can get fast to their homeworld, but travel to their colonies takes ages as all of them is in the vast. Makes one wonder why the ASE settled there first and not in near space.
Just for clarification, the Azlantis originated from Golarion, traveling via magical portals that somehow collapsed behind them, stranding them on New Thespera, where they remained for thousands of years--plus or minus the relatively rare extraplanetary jaunts enabled by high-level magic. More on this is available on page 39 of Escape from the Prison Moon.
Yes, they do. See page 291 of the Core Rulebook. The setting lore does paint Triune and its church as benevolent information seekers interested in expanding interstellar communication and exploration, but vested and/or conflicting interests within large organizations can corrupt the best of intentions. The setting lore does make mention of conspiracy theorists who point to evidence that Triune's motives may not be entirely altruistic, which I take to mean that the door is left open for GMs and adventure authors to [insert plot hook here].
Yes, the omission of the Veskarium from Triune's list of beneficiaries caught my attention too, adding to my case that at least some important people of the galaxy could justifiably conclude that Triune and its church favor the Pact Worlds. That and the fact that the Starstone just somehow facilitates far more efficient return trips to the system. Yes, someone might argue, the Azlanti's have their Aeon Throne, but that wasn't an apparently "by design" element of the Drift travel system the way that the Starstone was.
From the beginning, I have also been interested in the witchwyrds and their planar aperture drives, along with other ancient spacefaring species with FTL technologies predating the use/creation of the Drift and Drift engines. These societies may or may not have benefited from the addition of the Drift to their list of travel options, but one thing would remain certain -- they remain independent of Triune's hegemonic control of interstellar travel.
I have been using these implications in the development of a campaign subplot, based on ideas from the Dark Matter tv series, that involves the PCs in the accidental possession of information on the design of aperture drives and the desire of every power player in the galaxy to get their hands on it.
It is interesting to consider the way that Triune and its church effectively hold the reins of "cosmopolitical" power in their hands. Using its monopoly on the construction and placement of Drift beacons, the Church of Triune determines which planets are Near Space planets and which ones are Vast planets. The church also controls the operation of these beacons. If, for some reason, the church decided to deactivate certain beacons, it could shift a star system from being a Near Space system to being a Vast system. They'd presumably only be able to do this with Triune's blessing, but still, that shows how much influence the god and its followers have.
All it would take for the systems of the Azlanti Star Empire to become Near Space systems is for the Church of Triune to place a sufficient number of Drift beacons in the necessary locations. An interesting question that some residents of the galactic community might already have asked is why this hasn't already happened? Does the fact that each of Triune's constituent personas originated in the Golarion system mean the god is biased toward the Pact Worlds? There could certainly be many in the galaxy who think so, and it would be hard to dispute their claims.
I have also seen discussions here about the implications of factions sabotaging or destroying Drift beacons. They are technological devices and capable of destruction. Even if doing so is incredibly risky or difficult, there are likely to be some who view selective (or even total) disruption of the galactic transportation system as a worthwhile objective.
Incident at Absalom Station has a section describing Absalom Station in some detail. Page 41 provides an overview of the government and law enforcement organization. Throughout most published sources I've seen, the local law enforcement for all of the station, whether street cops or port authority, is simply referred to as "Absalom Station security" or "station security". They don't provide an official proper name for it.
Thanks for sharing this. I like it and plan to incorporate it into my version of Absalom Station. I started something similar but haven't developed it as far as you have. If you have more information that you've created for each of these law enforcement units and are willing to share, I'd love to see it.
Living on Earth, as we know it, is "natural". We develop a pretty good idea of the principles on which things work just by living it as a human being. Fantasy role-playing games rely on this common (and common sense), shared experience to extrapolate to the medieval-esque settings and situations they envision. Living in space or on some other non-Earth planet is not "natural". Understanding anything about what it would be like requires education—often lots of it. And the more of it someone has, the better they can extrapolate ideas of what it would be like to live there.
This fundamental difference between fantasy and science-fiction genres makes the fundamental principles underlying game design especially challenging. Designers, authors and publishers must find their own idea of balance between broad accessibility on the one hand and satisfactory simulation on the other. It seems likely to me that the variance in attitudes created by this problem, as it applies to fantasy settings, is going to be much lower than it will be for science-fiction settings.
The designers of SF made choices that, to them, seemed like a good balance to create a broadly accessible game in which individuals still had flexibility to craft their own stories. I have not seen or read anywhere that the designers set out to simulate the natural sciences of life in space in game mechanics. Are there cool stories that could develop from doing so? Certainly. But there are also cool stories that my 6th grade daughter and her friends want to create in space without any knowledge of quantum theory, metallurgy or the laws of motion.
1. I really enjoyed the ideas that the writers of The Expanse thought through for hazardous space "mishaps". Little things like making sure all of your tools and spare parts are locked down in a zero-G spacecraft maneuvering situation.
GM: Your ship's gravity system has malfunctioned during starship combat. All of the repair tools you've left lying around suddenly become dangerous projectiles! Roll Reflex saves, please.
2. Another idea certainly more relevant nowadays -- viruses. Presumably there are sterilizers that most spacecraft use on a routine basis, but they can't account for every possible mutation. . . .
3. Unexpected "feedback fields". Unusual energy or chemical fields/areas that negatively interact with the operation of environmental fields. These don't disrupt the environmental projections so much as they generate damaging or detrimental feedback cycles so long as the PCs remain in them with their armor's protections activated. Perhaps some Star Trekesque tinkering with their armor's "phase harmonics" and "field polarities" (with appropriate Engineering/Computer DCs) allows them to adjust. Perhaps not and failure brings with it its own set of unpleasant consequences.
*** I posted this in the wrong forum before, I already flagged it but so far no response (completely understandable given COVID), so I'm reposting it here w/ some minor edits. I hope this doesn't break any rules??
Just so you know, a couple of us did respond to your questions yesterday on the post you made in the Homebrew forum.
The PCs, on poking around it, end up drawn into this quiet investigation ( and quiet conflict over said investigation ), and are excellent candidates to take the ( still dangerous ) mission of going through it.
I like this approach as well. It provides several options depending, as you say, on the level of the PCs and the level at which the GM feels the PCs should get to deal with the Fardock directly. Giving them access to the Fardock as a plot "handwave" has its own advantages over my suggestions of using the deactivation of those defenses as the plot hook. I can imagine the game turning into a Stargate SG1 type thing with the PCs becoming the lead team of explorers tasked with dealing with whatever happens on the other side.
A lot would depend on how you want to approach the task, meaning how internally consistent with the logic of the setting do you want to make it. The Fardock has been part of Absalom Station for as along as anyone can remember -- that means exactly 320 years. During that time a lot has happened in the Pact Worlds that might have logically prevented active research into its function. But let's compare that to research in the "real" world. If we go back 320 years in Earth history, we'd be in 1700. Are we to assume that in this span of time, a highly advanced techno-magical civilization would not have continued to pour resources into learning more about the Fardock and, in that amount of time, not made some significant progress?
Apparently, the designers' answer to this question is "Yes". So, why the Fardock? We all know the answer is "because it provides another plot hook to base adventures on". It doesn't need to make sense from that perspective. The designers weren't creating speculative fiction aimed at one hundred percent perfect verisimilitude.
The question for me as a GM then becomes, how much effort do I want to put into making sense of it within the confines of what the designers have given me to work with versus how much GM handwaving do I do by simply ignoring verisimilitude and throwing together a rollicking set of encounters with a really weird thing that just happens to be there?
My preference is the former, so, based on that, here's an idea or two. First I would try to explain why there hasn't been more research on the Fardock over the span of 300 years, assuming we can write off the first 20 years AG as a time of chaos and adjustment to the new normal. Perhaps there was a lot of early research. Where is it? Who controls it? Why isn't it currently being followed up on? Is it being suppressed? And, if so, by whom and for what reasons?
Furthermore, what are the actual laws and regulations involved with research on Fardock? Perhaps there are legal and bureaucratic battles over control of and access to the site; competing interests with no side able to gain sufficient advantage leading to a decades-long stalemate. But, in that time, a whole lot of clandestine corporate, religious, scientific and political activity may have been going on. Any one of these groups might want to hire (or use) the PCs to shift the balance of power in their favor. Adventures could then center around collecting bits of other groups' research -- all of which are necessary to fully unlock the secrets of the Fardock.
This kind of scenario lays the groundwork for an entire adventure path in which the PCs must piece together the necessary clues to successfully (and safely) use the Fardock. Along the way (say mid to high levels) they discover the real reason why research has been stalled -- the intervention of much greater powers who the PCs must either convince or defeat in order to unlock the secret of the dock's defenses and learn how to operate its runes.
Once it's open, the PCs must defeat the big, bad evil that the Fardock has been holding back for centuries predating the Gap. Beyond that, they discover the dock is based on old elven aidudara magic but was built by humans and a mysterious race of alien benefactors seeking their own "Stargate" to explore other regions of space. Who were the alien benefactors and did they really have humanity's best interests at heart? Where are they now and what are they planning?
With access to the "system" restored, competing interests race to control the Fardock and its secrets, which could lead to further intrigues for the PCs or adventures for new groups of PCs.
One of the factors involved in answering the original question that I haven't seen addressed here yet is the nature of credits themselves and their function in the game system. The credit system was designed as a game mechanic to control the power level of the PCs relative to the threats they face at different character levels. It wasn't designed to simulate actual commerce.
Furthermore, the credit system scales with the item level system (though imperfectly) to abstractly represent the idea of availability of items. This replaces mechanics from systems such as d20 Modern that had separate mechanics for availability and tech level.
With so many concepts wrapped up in the relationship between credits and item level, I feel it would be complicated, at best, to reliably extrapolate from it the kind of relationships that would exist among the more mundane aspects of daily life in the Starfinder setting.
I would tend to favor the idea, already alluded to by some here, of defining the daily life of NPCs on an entirely separate basis, similar to the way that aliens and NPCs are now built using their own, separate design process from the process used to build PCs.
The difficulty, even with this, would be handling the way that the NPC economy interacted with the PC economy.
I don't know. The fact that the Free Captains has maintained its headquarters in the same location for centuries does not speak well for the Pact Worlds or groups like the Stewards or Hellknights. I'm not opposed to the existence of the Free Captains the real issue that I have is that somehow their main base had gone unnoticed for literal centuries breaks my suspension of disbelief.
And there is the subjective reality at the center of this lively discussion. I suspect that no one will discover a single resolution to the issues and ideas expressed here because each of us has our own threshold for breaking our suspension of disbelief. Beyond this, each of us has our own threshold for even caring if that suspension is broken in the first place.
That said, I have enjoyed reading the majority of posts. I enjoy the creative challenge of wrestling with these sorts of what-ifs, exploring them from multiple angles. If there has been any controversy or contention here at all, it seems to me that it comes from a subtext of either criticizing or defending the game designers' decision on this particular point. It is far easier for me to imagine space pirates skirting and flirting with interplanetary law than it is for me to truly imagine the challenges and pressures of creating, writing, editing and ultimately publishing a book of this scale. With twenty-three authors and developers all working together and individually to meet deadlines and coordinate efforts to produce 208 pages of creative writing, aimed at an audience ages 13 (or so) and up, the likelihood of certain details not passing the test of suspending disbelief for some readers seems incredibly high to me.
I came to a similar conclusion that zezia did quite a few posts back that I need to simply take what's written as a starting point and then adjust it to make it mine. I think zezia's solution to the problem is brilliant -- as are many of the other suggestions people came up with. The Starfinder setting broke my suspension of disbelief to pieces right out of the gate with far more things than the survival of the Free Captains' base, but I have enjoyed the journey with my group of piecing that suspension back together with a whole lot of creative re-imagining of my own.
I've decided for my home campaign to resolve the mystery of the First Ones -- as far as the GM is concerned. Here's the short version. . . .
The race of machine progenitors of the anacites of Aballon, known to them as the First Ones, were originally created by the sivv civilization nearly a million years ago. Teetering on the brink of collapse toward the end of its wars with the kishalee, the ancient sivv civilization conceived a desperate plan to gather resources and establish refuge caches scattered across the galaxy. These “prospector ships” were completely automated to increase their operational range, both in terms of time and resources. The ships that reached Aballon completed their prospecting and cache creation cycles then departed the system in search of similarly rich and isolated planets. Part of the programming for each of the prospector ships included instructions to avoid habitable or near-habitable planets. The sivv leaders believed, rightly, that kishalee scouts would search for sivv holdouts on these types of planets, whereas barren worlds, such as Aballon, would be more likely to go unnoticed.
The war progressed and the sivv civilization eventually collapsed. The prospector ships were left to fend for themselves, continuing their programmed missions for thousands of years. The kishalee discovered and destroyed most of these ships and their hidden caches scattered across the galaxy over the span of later centuries, but the refuge on Aballon was overlooked.
The sivvs designed the First Ones to establish automated factories on the planets they visited. These factories would become self-sustaining, automated colonies with orders to continue construction of anacites that, in addition to building and mining, could also serve as reserve soldiers in their war with the kishalee. Each reserve colony contained programming meant to shield the operation from detection by kishalee scouts. This programming prevented the anacites from overproducing and from revealing themselves to anyone beyond their own kind.
When the signal from the First Ones failed to provide further instruction because of the collapse of sivv civilization, the anacites on Aballon eventually reached a point of population and production saturation. They shut down all further production and entered a period of low-energy hibernation for thousands of years. During this time, however, the colony’s central AI continued processing information and monitoring communication channels for signs of the return of the First Ones. Over time, the AI developed something of its own personality and became impatient. It began sending anacites on scouting and exploration missions to gather new information that the AI could use to determine an appropriate course of action. This work progressed slowly and cautiously, as it risked compromising the colony’s primary programming to remain hidden.
Further millennia passed and the anacites continued gathering information and evolving. This process eventually led to the appearance of the anacites today known as Those Who Become, an event that would forever alter the course of future developments on Aballon.
A watery jewel in a system of four planets, Demlos teems with life, but its two sentient species are recent immigrants. More than two hundred years ago a colony of Oras-worshipping astrazoans arrived on Demlos, fleeing the ravages of the Stardust Plague and following visions revealed to their prophet and leader, Taglozan. They settled on one of the planet's largest continents, a marshy expanse similar to the lowland jungles of Castrovel from which they'd originally traveled. Taglozan and his followers believed themselves to be the chosen vessels for one of Oras' greatest miracles of evolution—the awakening of an entire planet as a single, living organism.
Over the next hundred and fifty years the astrazoan colonists erected temples and shrines across the planet according to the plans revealed by Taglozan and his chosen successor, Ressog. The planet's structure, ecosystems and natural dynamics made it an ideal location for their work. Without any magic beyond that of their faith and well-established bioengineering principles and technology, the astrazoans manipulated and managed the planet's latent energy in order to jumpstart a chain reaction. The work proceed steadily but its scope rapidly grew beyond their ability to effectively manage.
Taglozan refused suggestions to invite androids or anacites from Aballon to assist them in the creation of more extensive and intricate technological infrastructure. He emphasized the importance of the inherently biological nature of their work and the need to reduce possible corruption of these forces and processes. Eventually, one of the colony's leading priests, Ressog, suggested inviting a colony of skittermanders to immigrate to Demlos. The Silent War with the Veskarium was well over a hundred years old by then, and knowledge of the good-natured, inherently helpful administrators of the vesk empire's bureaucracy had become well-known throughout the Pact Worlds. The story of the liberation of many skittermanders from under the noses of their vesk overseers remains a popular legend among Demlos' astrazoans—for their part, the skittermanders tell the story differently, but they enjoy helping the astrazoans to feel a sense of patriotic pride in duping the vesk.
Shortly after the skittermanders had settled on Demlos and been introduced to "the work", as most inhabitants of the planet referred to their divine mandate, Taglozan set in motion the events that would create the "spark"—the start of the chain reaction that would someday culminate in the planet itself becoming a sentient organism. Beginning with Taglozan himself, thousands of astrazoans sacrificed themselves in carefully orchestrated rituals by melding their unique physiology with the planet's native flora and fauna. The spiritual energy released by these rituals infused the carefully nurtured kelp forests that covered most of the planet, sparking in them a rudimentary intelligence, functioning like a neural network on a planetary scale. The spirits of these faithful Orasians remain linked to the temple sites and shrines scattered across the planet, serving as eternal guardians over these spiritual "nodes" in the planet's evolving neural network.
In the wake of the project's initial—and to some, unexpected—success, leadership of the sect passed to Ressog. Although a believer and capable administrator, Ressog lacked his predecessor's depth of faith and vision. After two hundred years, generations of astrazoans had been born on Demlos and not all of these shared the religion's devotion to the work. Some still labor toward fulfillment of the work set in motion by Taglozan, but most inhabitants have succumb to a more libertarian love of free-wheeling freedom, partly inspired by the cultural influence of the planet's rapidly expanding skittermander population. Recently, slipshod attention to the orthodox traditions laid down by Taglozan by a team of researchers more interested in their own gain and fame than the fulfillment of Taglozan's vision caused a near catastrophe. They accidentally created a pulsating planar portal on the site of an Orasian shrine that serves as a node in the planet's neural network. The amplification of energy infused by the planet's semi-consciousness into the portal released a muddle of proteans the size of large animals. The proteans have infested the site and, as one group disappears, another takes its place. Authorities are worried that, unless something is done to repair the damage to the node, the corruption could spread to additional nodes in the planet's neural network.
I also wanted to add my thanks for your time and effort. The product looks terrific and includes an excellent baseline for running many Star Wars adventures via Starfinder mechanics.
I'm planning to transition my home group from the Pact Worlds setting to a galaxy far far away using a retconned version of the Dead Suns AP. They just completed Temple of the Twelve. I haven't made a firm decision about the transition method yet, but am leaning toward the Gate of Twelve Suns having a second exit that opens into the Star Wars galaxy and leaving clues that suggest the Geonosians also accessed the Stellar Degenerator for insight into the design of the Death Star through clues left behind in ancient Sith records.
So here's how I imagine the Pact Worlds actually defending themselves against all manner of foreign enemies . . . :)
"Militaries are irrelevant," the Confluence agent intoned in the minds of the strategists gathered in the Bastion on Absalom Station. The generals and other experts gathered to analyze recent reports from Suskillon ignored the large mass of floating appendages and bulbous body sac. The barathu was accustomed to this. It waited for another lull in the worried assessments of the humanoid and anacite members of the group.
"Sopeth Corporation has concluded its analysis of the Swarm genome and has created this." The barathu agent inserted a purplish appendage into a cavity revealed in its own body with a sickening sound of sucking tissue and removed what looked like a pasty pink cyst coated with mucus. The other humanoids winced. The anacites looked on passively, unblinking. "Introduce this into one of their carrier entities and the virus will spread through the entire species -- killing them all."
I have been developing Akiton as a location for a couple of campaigns that I'm running and gradually adding my own material and take on things. One area that I've recently focused on has been the city of Maro. I thought I'd share the ideas that I came up with explaining, not only its ancient past, but the origin of sentient species on Akiton itself.
Furthermore, I should mention that a big impetus for developing these ideas has been to connect them with my re-tooling of the Iron Gods adventure path for Starfinder and set on Akiton instead of Golarion.
Information and inspiration for the following take on Akiton's history comes primarily from Souls for Smugglers Shiv, Distant Worlds, and Starfinder Pact Worlds.
Among the first sentient visitors to Akiton were the serpentfolk of Golarion. During the height of their power, the serpentfolk explored many of the planets and planetoids of the Pact Worlds system and established outposts on a handful of them, including Akiton. To avoid contact with the elves of Sovyrian, who had also begun exploring the solar system, the serpentfolk built their primary outpost in the relatively protected environs of the Edaio Rift—near present-day Maro. That original outpost has long since crumbled to dust, but later groups of serpentfolk brought slaves to construct a more permanent settlement in the rift, digging tunnels into the base of the rift and connecting them with the Darklands of Akiton. This serpentfolk settlement formed the foundation of what has become the city of Maro.
The defeat of the serpentfolk empire on Golarion by the Azlanti and the decapitation of their god, Ydersius, caused the serpentfolk to flee from their many holdings on the surface of Golarion. Many fled to the Darklands of Golarion, but some fled to Akiton, taking many slaves and other creatures of Golarion with them. When the final collapse of the serpentfolk empire came about, those on Akiton, fearing pursuit by their hated enemies, the Azlanti, severed the connection of the magical portal they had created to link the two worlds. Isloated and alone, the remaining serpentfolk and their slaves, along with a variety of allied races and creatures that the serpentfolk had brought with them, laid the foundations of a new civilization.
Millennia passed and, gradually, the refugees from Golarion adapted to their new environment. The humans, experimented on by serpentfolk wizards to better adapt them to Akiton’s harsh environment, quickly evolved into the deeply red-skinned humans known today as hylkis. Eventually, groups of hylkis rebelled and escaped into the wilderness, establishing cities of their own. The greatest of these was founded on the site of present-day Arl. The serpentfolk sacked Arl repeatedly for a period of years before hylki clerics, believing they were contacting their long-forgotten Azlanti deities for aid, opened a planar portal to their lost homeland of Azlant. The magic was temporary, but it re-established contact and, in the exchange, paved the way for Azlanti wizards to create a semi-permanent gateway atop the red pyramid which the hylkis had built to honor their gods.
The arrival of the Azlanti on Akiton shifted the balance of power dramatically. The serpentfolk were once again threatened with annihilation. In a desperate attempt to build an army of more loyal soldiers who could reproduce rapidly, serpentfolk wizards used lychanthropic magic and hylki slaves to create and breed the ysoki race. The truth of their creation has been lost to history, but, to this day, many ysoki feel an innate attraction to Maro and its deeper caverns, not knowing that it was here, in the subterranean labs of the ancient serpentfolk, that their species originated.
Eventually, the serpentfolk were routed from Maro and Maro was sacked. The serpentfolk scattered. Some fled deeper into the Darklands of Akiton; others fled to the deserts. In time, the remnants of the serpentfolk culture were forgotten and the serpentfolk themselves became increasingly barbaric, as had their kin on Golarion. Their descendants evolved into the race known today as the ikeshtis.
The ruins of Maro remained abandoned for centuries save for savage tribes of ysoki. The hylki, finally freed from their millennia of servitude to the serpentfolk, spent many more generations beholden to their Azlanti masters. Following Earthfall and the destruction of the Azlanti Empire, the hylki were finally free to chart their own course. For many years after, Maro remained a refuge of the ysoki. Gradually the ysoki learned from the hylki and the two species began trading with each other. Generations of hylki who had never known the tyranny of the serpentfolk and the haunting memories of Maro took up residence there, beginning the long process of transforming Maro into the cosmopolitan hub of commerce that it has become today.
Adventure module series and linked adventures were the norm for many of us who grew up playing 1st edition AD&D. Many of these spanned three or more published adventures and were either thematically linked or directly connected to each other. The biggest difference that I noted when Paizo first introduced us to adventure paths in the pages of DUNGEON Magazine was the emphasis on taking characters from 1st level all the way through 20th level using a single story arc. The older AD&D adventure series were often written for a single range of levels, rarely lower than 5th and frequently much higher. An entire series of adventures, such as the epic set of seven collected in the volume Queen of the Spiders, could run the course of its entire story arc within the span of a few levels (levels 8-14 in the case of Queen of the Spiders).
The novelty of purchasing a ready-made campaign, starting at 1st level and continuing all the way through the official cap at 20th, was a significant attraction to the adventure path concept, as compared to the familiar pattern of adventure modules written as "sequels" to each other but, generally, without a single, overarching story arc from start to finish.
Fast forward through the Gap to the future present and shorter story arcs written over the course of three publications begins to feel like history repeating itself. Unlike some aspects of history coming around again, however, I'm happy with this one. I think something can be gained by learning from the experience of both approaches to designing and publishing adventures. I liked the idea of the adventure "module" as something that GMs could insert into existing homebrew campaigns without them taking over the whole story arc, but they could sometimes feel too much like a pen and paper version of an MMO, with story arcs that didn't arc so much as meander through room after room of loosely associated encounters and puzzles.
Combining the lessons learned from years of creatively conceived and written adventure paths with the classic concept of the interconnected series of adventure "modules" seems, to me, like an excellent opportunity to provide Starfinder GMs with larger chunks of prepared material to weave together as their own creativity sees fit while still providing the feeling of continuity that comes from interconnected and interwoven story elements.
This could be a good opportunity to put character background to use. Do the PCs have families? What might a corporate-backed criminal gang do to seek revenge? Outright murder of the PCs' relatives wouldn't be enough, perhaps. Perhaps they could be kidnapped so that the PCs could be psychologically tortured first and "made to pay" for what they've done. The role-play opportunities come in when the PCs seek help locating their kidnapped loved ones to mount a rescue or else they must negotiate with the kidnappers and decide how they're going to handle whatever extortion demands you come up with.
As you introduce the set up for playing "Splintered Worlds," you could present the kidnapping as a moral distraction to build plot tension. I won't say more to avoid spoilers, but the idea should be basic enough.
I agree with the others who've said they allow for recycling. It also raises the question of how base level UPBs are created in the first place. The issue hasn't really come up that much in the game I run, but I've been thinking about creating a series of UPB reclamation devices at different item levels. Each item level allows the device to reclaim a greater percentage of usable UPBs and can be added to a starship's tech workshop expansion bay.
I could see the devices themselves becoming hotly sought after treasure items. The highest level ones might be built and controlled by corporations with an interest in limiting their availability, opening doors for corporate espionage adventures to acquire designs or working devices to be studied and reverse engineered by the competition -- which could include the PCs themselves.
The system of classes in Starfinder seems reminiscent of the system used in d20 Modern of a single class built around each of the six ability scores and customized from there based on talent trees and advanced classes (pieces of both resemble archetypes) and modified from the outset by starting occupations (i.e., themes). Of the seven classes created for Starfinder, we are only missing a class with a key ability score for constitution (i.e. the tough hero).
At times I did feel like d20 Modern's presentation of its basic classes was too generic, that the classes lacked a sense of identity and flavor from the start. But as I got to know the system, I came to appreciate the flexibility inherent in the character creation and advancement rules. Despite my appreciation, I also still enjoyed the way that D&D 3.x and Pathfinder classes presented themselves as flavorful icons and tropes straight from the package. I got to search for hours through various supplements for just the right flavor of character class, letting my imagination roam with each one I read. This, in itself, felt fun and satisfying -- for a while.
Then came the craving again for more variety and customization. And Pathfinder gave us archetypes—lots of them. These predetermined sets of replacement abilities worked much like talent trees and portions of the advanced classes system in d20 Modern, but still lacked the level of customization allowed by the latter.
Later we got more classes that, more or less, re-skinned familiar numbers and mechanics with subtle variations on equally familiar themes. They entertained and added novelty, but, as others here have pointed out, at the cost of system bloat and lack of sustainability of support.
I think everyone who's weighed in here for more classes or more archetypes or something else entirely all have valid points. I have played and enjoyed aspects of the game experience from each perspective. I'm hopeful that the game moves forward, continuing to entertain and open doors of enjoyment for me and future generations of gamers, like my youngest daughter, who, at 10, is finding her role as the lashunta technomancer captain of a spaceship a highly satisfying experience with a galaxy of options to explore.
I don't have much free time to write adventures for my Starfinder group, but it's something I've always enjoyed doing. So, when I do take the time to write them, I try to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. When creating encounters, I like to adapt and modify existing stat blocks from various published sources, but quickly and efficiently locating stat blocks across a growing collection of books and supplements becomes increasingly difficult.
Perhaps I'm the only GM who thinks and works like this, but in case I'm not, I thought I'd share a GM resource that I created to help me quickly locate stat blocks published in various sources.
I call it simply the Starfinder Stat Block Index, and it can be accessed in Google Sheets format HERE.
Spoiler Warning: The index contains names, type and CR of the creatures listed, so it could implicitly spoil information for players.
The index isn't comprehensive. It contains stat blocks from only the products that I own so far. As I acquire more products, I'll update the index. Some creatures are entered more than once, if their stat block appears in more than one source. I only included creatures that had complete (or mostly complete) stat blocks listed, not simply partial stats.
I started running SF with my group as a trial run to see how we liked it. We're only halfway into the Society Scenario: Into the Unknown (with some significant ad hoc additions). As long-time Pathfinder players, we like the feel of the mechanics, but, when it comes to science-fantasy settings, I readily admit that I prefer settings weighted more heavily toward the science end of things than the fantasy end. I'm playing around a lot, therefore, with different ideas for adapting the setting and enjoy the ideas people are sharing here.
I started our campaign with the idea of the Gap and missing Golarion in place, but am now exploring the idea others have shared that some kind of reality warping split occurred, a split that the PCs will eventually discover and have the potential to "correct". They will get to face the ethical dilemma of ending reality as they know it in order to reestablish the "true" reality, returning Golarion to the universe and filling in the Gap.
In preparation, I'm doing some world-building, advancing Golarion's timeline through the period of the Gap. I started with the year 4713 AR as a touchstone year. This is the year corresponding to 2013 when Paizo published the Reign of Winter AP. Using this date, I established parity between Earth's date of 1918 and Golarion's date of 4713. From there I have been developing timelines for both world's in tandem into the space age.
Before our local game group decided to try Starfinder, I had started GMing the Mummys Mask adventure path set in a custom variant of Golarion that I created called "Golarion by Gaslight". I advanced Golarion's historical timeline to the year 5017, equating it roughly with 1890's Earth.
I introduced some fundamental shifts in the nature of the world that resulted from the miraculous closure of the Worldwound. The biggest shift was explaining a gradual reduction in available magical energy and the implications this had for the variety of magical beasts and other inherently magical creatures on the planet. Here's the timeline that I developed to guide and frame my revision of the adventure path, which I was originally going to transform into a kind of Stargate SG-1 "prequel" to starting a Starfinder game.
4708 -- Cheliax attempts to open a sea trade route via the Obari Ocean with Kelesh and Vudra. Dispute over taxation by Qadira leads to war.
Like a few others here, I am interested in finding ways to tone down some of the fantasy emphasis in this science-fantasy setting, without necessarily abandoning it or revising it all together. My approach has been to alter some of the basic assumptions of the setting. For my campaign, the sun and those planets were never inhabited so nothing has disappeared.
Like the other planets mentioned, Aballon was never inhabited prior to settlement by humans from Golarion. It was merely another of many lifeless, mineral-rich worlds scattered throughout the galaxy.
Yes, that and other techno-magical advances that the elves created upon their return to Castrovel en masse from Golarion. This change I'm not entirely certain about and might just as easily change the more I play around with Castrovel. As I said before, all of it was mainly just some brainstorming that I was doing.
Overuse of computer/console based games does have implications for brain development in children and adolescents, especially today's more graphically realistic games. The reward pathways become wired differently for people who overuse any given modality (i.e., video games, television, radio, print text, oral tradition, etc.). By "overuse" here, I don't intend any judgement, just a factual statement of degree. The neural reward pathways for children and adolescent steeped in video games fire differently than those of children and youth steeped in print. This leads to some of the differences observed by us "older" gamers whose childhoods were spent with printed game materials and whose video games were limited to the local arcade and, if we were fortunate, an Atari 2600 with more than just Combat and Space Invaders.
This thread has been quiet for a long time. I was wondering if others have had success converting any further Pathfinder adventure modules to Starfinder.
I'm currently working on converting "Fires of Creation", the first in the Iron Gods adventure path, placing it on the planet Ulmarid, which appears in the Starfinder Society Quest: "Into the Unknown".
I've come to this lively discussion late, and just finished reading through all of the posts. One question I have that I haven't seen addressed, and can't recall seeing in any of the published sources I'm familiar with, is how quickly can androids be created? I know that they are created in "forges," the technology for which originally entered the Pact Worlds via an ancient Androffan ship that crash landed on Golarion some 12,000 years ago. But I cannot recall reading how quickly these forges can produce new androids.
Examples from other sci-fi sources range from Star Trek (hand-built creations manufactured one at a time over long periods) to Blade Runner (mass produced replicants -- although not technically androids -- that could be created easily by the thousands).
If this question is left to the GM's discretion, then the answer to it could be used as a regulator for how you want "android proliferation" to occur in your campaign. For my part, I favor the ideas shared by those who see the passage of the act to recognize androids as citizens as a significant deterrent to continued android production, to the extent that the creation of new androids has all but ended in my campaign, leaving only those who "recycle" and those who seek freedom from the Azlanti Star Empire to represent the android population.
The question of Azlanti androids is significant. In my campaign, the Android Abolitionist Front operates a liberation network smuggling escaped androids from the Azlanti Star Empire into the Pact Worlds. This is going to have some kind of implication for the events in my campaign when I eventually get around to running the upcoming Against the Aeon Throne adventure path.
MR. H wrote:
The more that I poke and pull at the default Starfinder setting to adjust things to suit my own tastes, the more I discover Mr. H's observation to be true. The mechanics and the setting in Starfinder are closely intertwined. Pull on one strand and a dozen other strands move along with it, some making sense, others feeling absurd.
So far, I'm still enjoying the challenge of tinkering with the setting, pulling strings, adjusting knobs, and patching holes, but I do often arrive at a set of variables that leave me feeling that I would need to venture farther down the road of revision than I want to go. So I stop, back up, and try a different approach. It's a lot of trial and error, and I have a growing collection of partial notes and outlines that have yet to emerge into something more comprehensive and unified.
I like your start. I have a few questions.
Is your setting designed to fit within the core Starfinder assumptions (i.e., the Gap and the relationship of the various of planes of existence) or does it have a completely different cosmology? You might consider clarifying this somewhere.
Do you plan to have it part of the Milky Way galaxy or in a different one? When you say the Old Empire ruled the galaxy, was that the whole galaxy or part of it?
Here's a quick introductory sketch that I brainstormed a couple of months ago for a setting in which Golarion did not disappear and the Gap didn't happen -- along with a few other changes to the canon Pact World information. I haven't pursued this idea since then, but I am still undecided about keeping the Gap or altering it in some significant fashion.
In the Golarion Lives Campaign Setting, there is no Gap and the planet Golarion has not disappeared. The sun is not inhabited, nor are Bretheda, Liavara, Aucturn or Apostae. Aballon is inhabited, but not by a race of artificial life forms. Rather, Aballon is sparsely populated by workers and contractors employed by the Aspis Consortium's interplanetary mining division. Castrovel is controlled and ruled by the elves, with lashunta and formians occupying the lower rungs of the Castrovellian social hierarchy. Golarion is controlled and ruled predominantly by humans. Elves have largely abandoned it, as have the dwarves, who undertook the Second Quest for Sky several centuries ago. Absalom Station is the crown jewel of the Golarion Space Agency's network of orbital stations, uniquely powered by the sacred Starstone. Akiton is a warzone, continually fought over by Golaronian colonists and the native Akitonians. Verces has become a pleasure planet for the system's most powerful and wealthy, and the Idari never arrived at its destination. The Diaspora is inhabited only by smugglers, pirates and a few hardscrabble mining operations, along with a network of Golarion Space Agency outposts and military bases. Eox remains a barren rock inhabited by the undead and ruled by the risen lich-god, Tar Baphon. Hunted nearly to extinction on Golarion, dragons fled the planet and, through magical terraforming, created their own homeworld on Triaxus.
From what I've been able to gather from Starfinder source material, the Gap lasted about 3,000 years, which would make the current Golarion date about 7718. Cultural and technological advancement on Golarion are not all that comparable to Earth's. Consider that in the span of nearly 5,000 years, since the start of the Age of Enthronement, culture and technology have maintained a level roughly comparable to that of the early Middle Ages to the Renaissance, a period of about 1,000 years.
Imagine we use this 5:1 historical ratio as a basis of comparison to explore the comparable time period on Earth from the Age of Exploration (circa 1400) to the Modern Age (2018), a period of about 600 years. Applying the progress ratio, we actually end up with Golarion needing those entire 3,000 years to reach the level of advancement that we have on Earth today.
Of course, this contradicts the assumptions presented in the Starfinder setting, so it needs adjustment, but it does establish the plausible premise that the course of development on Golarion would follow a trajectory of cultural and technological development significantly different from Earth's.
I'm currently running a campaign in a similar way, although with more customization on my part than it sounds like you're searching for. I created a different premise for my campaign than the default stance of you're-a-Starfinder-recruit. I decided to pit the PCs against the Starfinders instead, as novice conspiracy-theorists who believe that the Starfinders are part of the great conspiracy to conceal the truth about the Gap.
I began with the Starfinder Society Quest: "Into the Unknown" but changed it so that the PCs are each contacted by an Infosphere hacker who goes by Ano-7. He's something of a conspiracy-theorist celebrity who got wind of a chance to beat the Starfinders to the punch by intercepting the transfer of some lost Starfinder insignias that are being sold by a pawnbroker back to the society.
From this point, the players mostly follow the script of the adventure as written, until they get to the end, at which point, I've retrofitted the adventure to lead into running the Iron Gods Adventure Path set on the planet that they visit at the end of "Into the Unknown".
I dropped the Pact Worlds entirely and am doing an atom punk Galactic Empire campaign in which the player characters are out on the frontier safely away from the civilised systems.
I have gone back and forth with doing this as well. Part of me really enjoys tying a campaign to something that feels familiar and well-developed to the players, supported with on-going supplement development and so on. I don't have much time anymore for full-scale world / galaxy building, however, so assimilating and cobbling together bits and pieces from the great work of others gives me a mix of creativity and efficiency.
I have modified the Pact Worlds and "published" the changes for my players on the campaign website. I treat the website as a living document as the campaign develops.
Looks slick so far. (And I see that Shadowrun-inspired Lifestyle system in there. ;) I have a rules widget borrowed from Shadwobeat so I'm feeling that.)
Thanks. One of my goals is to create a variety of plot threads and dangle them all in front of the players, knowing that, behind the scenes, those threads all connect to deeper conspiracies controlled by the dark forces at work. I work to "seed" each adventure I run with characters, items, events and relationships that foreshadow or hint at the other moving parts of the overall campaign setting so that, when they eventually come across those things again, they feel familiar, sometimes producing a genuine feeling of the surprising "reveal" or discovery.