The worlds of infinite space are yours to discover with the Galaxy Exploration Manual! This all-new Starfinder rules expansion hardcover for players and Game Masters focuses on trailblazing, exploration-based play across an expansive variety of unusual planets packed with deadly dangers and thrilling possibilities for adventure!
The Galaxy Exploration Manual contains:
New class options for every Starfinder class.
An extensive player character background generator.
New equipment from personal items to grenades, medicinals, and serums.
Rules for creating and exploring sensational science-fantasy worlds ranging from a huge variety of planets to asteroids, satellites, colony ships, and more.
Extensive details on 12 different environmental biomes like airborne, desert, space, subterranean, or urban, with systems for generating its inhabitants, threats, and adventure hooks and tons of unique player character options.
Rules for creating and expanding a world's culture, from magic to religion to technology.
GM tactics and advice for running exciting open-ended space exploration campaigns.
Other Resources: This product is also available on the following platforms:
Worldbuilding?? Psssh. How about Universe Building!
The bulk of the book is Chapter 2, an amazing Chapter outlining how to build different worlds based on biomes, from things like “Marsh” to words like “Weird”. These biomes have tables outlined on EACH of them, including inhabitants, useful items, and even adventure hooks. Not to mention small enough to read but large enough to matter sections outlining each and every biome. Everything a GM could ever want to make their own worlds. Heck… everything a player could ever want to build a custom world for their character background.
But it doesn’t stop there. Not only can worlds be built based on biomes, but there are also included rules for Accord, Leadership Systems, and Organizations. All with the ability to base these new worlds off of Alignment, Magic, Religion, and Technology.
Let me throw out some random words for you, knowing they have the rules and tables for each one, and imagine the possibilities:
A High Technology, Medium Magic, Low Religion, Chaotic Neutral, Aquatic World.
The next section of the book includes everything anyone would ever need to run a true, blue, sandbox adventure. Finely tuned guidelines and hints to start and get the mindset right, before using all of the amazing tools provided. Ever wonder what high-fantasy could look like? What about a western space setting, like Firefly? It’s all here, ready to actualize.
Do you have that down? Great! You’re ahead of the prep game. But… Ever needed a unique settlement made on the fly because the players turned left instead of right? What about a random starship with a story? Treasure? What about the all-random Drift Travel and its encounters? Oh.. okay, I know. NPCs. This book is chock full of names, species, and quirks, on the fly, ready at the players’ whims. If nothing else, these toolboxes themselves are worth the price of admission.
But Wait, There’s More?
At this point, the book is paid for and on the way right? Just imagine having all of these amazing things ready for that galaxy exploration campaign. But, as always, Paizo goes that extra mile and throws in some fun bonus content for everyone to enjoy. This book comes with oodles and oodles (it’s a real number over 100) of class options and features for every single class. It’s got piles of new unique equipment ready to use in your Starfinder campaign, and a brand new system of activities (such as downtime or exploration) to be used when exploring galaxies and planets.
Look, we do have to disclose that we were given a free copy of this book to allow us to review it for the likes of amazing people like you, but that doesn’t change the content of the book. And holy wow… have we also mentioned the artwork is amaaaazing. Paizo never disappoints, and in terms of a brand new book with proper content for Starfinder, this one is a solid 10/10.
But in terms of a must-have for any Spacemaster or Starfinder group that thinks they’ll ever run into a planet or galaxy they never planned for, go ahead and bump this to a hardcore 11/10. Because after seeing some of this content, it’s hard to imagine not having this in your library for inspiration
So do like new exploration themed options in the book(from what I can tell, I often have hard time grasping how good player rules are before I can use them in practice), the background generator, biome section the exploration rules and such, but I wasn't confident on giving book 5 stars. I was wondering why I felt bit underwhelmed by parts the book. I was aware that it does what it does very well so I do think it would be right to give it 5 stars, but still felt underwhelmed a bit by part of the book. After few days of thinking about it I think I know what it is:
Biome section of book is mostly world building GM help. While that is super good worldbuilding guideline, I think I was personally expecting one of three things along with that 1) guides for players on how to prepare exploring this type of biome 2) new rules related to environment of biome(book does show that core rulebook covers already pretty much everything you could need in any of biomes, but I was still hoping something new and wondrous if that makes sense?) 3) more lore examples of biome. What book does is provide description of biome and provide examples and questions to give you idea of difficulties of environment, what kind of societies would live in biome what kind of adventures you could have in biome, what kind of worlds might have this type of biome and core rulebook references to rules you can use in the biome. Then d100 table for inhabitants you could find in biome and adventuer hook d20 table along with more character options.
Book DOES do the no 1 of three things I listed sort of(it does describe flavor wise what kind of equipment you would need to survive in said biome), but I do think I would have been bit happier with section if it included more player guidance on what they can buy to prepare and such. Still though this is mostly personal preference thing, if articles had any of those three points more strongly I would definitely give section 5 stars. Heck I would still now consider it 5 stars worthy because it does good job of helping you world build your possibly randomized worlds which is important in sandbox campaign or when you need to come up with entire planets. I'm super into world building already so while I might not be able to come up with realistic world though, I'm still more interested in rule heavier guidance. That said I'm sure this section will be useful for me too.
(too long to read version: Basically I kinda wish biome section was more immersive on what it is like to explore the biome rather than just world building advice and idea seeding)
I have no real clue here what would be objective review from my point of view since while I'm bit underwhelmed by biome section, I still overally really like it and its just only about 20 pages in 160 page book, but I do think its kinda weird to give full stars customer review about book I'm not super hyped for after reading even if its just small portion that makes me less enthusiastic. Buuut rest of the book is making me excited again so uh... Well I have time to figure this out :'D
Anyway, I'll go to other topics now:
I really love background generators, so I'm always happy to see lots of d100 tables. Though I do think homeworld generator is bit off since almost all options in it have equal weight, so in starfinder its just as likely you are from post apocalyptic planet and from new colony. Which I guess does make sense in "space is super large" context, but lot of homeworld options sound like places you might want to have entire campaign in rather than just character being from there x'D
As said before, on class options there are so many of them that its overwhelming for me to try to figure out "are these objectively good" especially before I see them in play, but I do like how they are all exploration themed. (sidenote: art in book is good, though some of art is bit weird like the vesk with frills. But I'm glad to finally have barathu art that actually looks different from other barathu art after we have been told over and over that all barathu look different from each other). My personal favorite is Xenoambassador mystic connection ;D I also like flavor of "Disrupt Lethality" witchwarper paradim shift, its probably not that good offensively but flavor is fun and it can be used on allies as well so.
I do kinda wish there was even more on exploration rule system, but I do get it why they keep it pretty short and sweet: because they are providing system you could use universally in any world. Its nice to finally have more codified system for "discovering new worlds and mapping road to them" and I do like this hexploration system better than 1e one since its less "eh you can do single thing per day" and more "faster you are, more you can do per a day" So yeah, really liking the Galaxy, Orbit and Hexploration rules and hoping to see more from them. (orbit exploration is pretty much the "you scan planet from orbit and get information based on your roll" thing scenarios and adventures do, but more codified and gives better guidance on what kind of information you should give.)
So equipment section has tons of fun art :D The items have really fun flavor and are decently useful.
I'm bit skeptical on it being easy to generate planet on fly and such, but I do think random table gives enough information for you to be able to improvise well if you are good at improvisations :D (I don't know if I am, but I'd like to think so after few homebrew campaigns x'D)
As said before, biome sections do give lot of good world building advice, but not so much player useful info on preparing for biome(though descriptions of what kind of equipment you do need for biomes can give you inspiration on what to buy). That said biome themed player options are nice and not just only usable for that biome, there aren't ultimate wilderness style "geez, you took feat that is only useful in one situation ever?" options. There are new fusions, companions, augments, weapons, armor, feats, spells... Yeah there is pretty much everything, earlier pc option section was focused on class specific options, this one is focused on options that aren't class based.
Sidenote, kinda disagreeing with weird section on this statement "Weird biomes defy expectation; they tend to feel most natural when experienced in isolation, with an entire world being uniformly weird, rather than including an eccentric ecosystem on an otherwise mundane planet." ;D Mostly because it can be extremely weird to have otherwise mundane planet that just happens to have large orb of darkness covering one continent or such.
But yeah, biome section has some of my favorite art in the book, also have to say that my favorite player options from this section are "Weird Companions" options ;D They are weird indeed
Anyway, after biome section the building new world section ends with description of accord, alignment, magic, religion and technology, so basically those modifiers from everyone's favorite random planet card deck ;D This section is really good once again. Even though I love it, I do have overall one small problem with section: its sometimes really focuses on describing the worlds in antagonistic manner.
Accord is about how unified world is and its pretty good example of what I mean: Lot of the section is spent on describing how High Accord world would be totalitarian state, and how Low accord worlds are chaotic and anarchic. Article does give bit of pass for medium accord worlds in sense that book mentions they are most common type of worlds in galaxy, it does give them idea of what kind of conflict they could have yes, but it overall gives much less negative view on them than it does for high and low accord worlds.
I do think its good to keep in mind that new worlds players encounters need adventuring potential for them, but I do think guidelines should keep in mind that sometimes its okay to run into peaceful unified society that doesn't have deep dark secret behind their happiness :p Also I do think the accord article could use more examples of high and low accord worlds in starfinder setting. I guess pact worlds is good example of medium accord one: multiple different factions divided by their beliefs and history.
Oh before I move on: I LOVE leadership system of this game, though I might call it more of organization system ;D Here is how I think it improved it upon 1e one:
1) leadership isn't a feat, its subsystem you can use in campaign that is about players running an organization
2) organization has its own level rather than being directly tied to pcs levels
3) it finally gives mechanical guideline on how organization can help players beyond vague "you have lot of level 4 friends in town", I really like abstraction of "Organization Power"
4) downtime activities related to leading organization, enough said.
Sidenote, another funny thing about organization rules is that since starfinder is in spaaaaace, organization scale is galactic as well x'D Level 20 organization has millions of followers and even more people who have heard of them while only having about two thousand members.
Oh yeah 5) rules make clear difference between followers(aka fans and supporters. Different from casually interested people), members and lieutenants. So scale of organization is very well manageable :D
Alignment section does good job of describing what alignment means society wide(and why I think its useful tool for this purpose), though it does do the same mistake every version of this game does where NG and CG are treated favorably and LG is described as self righteous jerks :P As obsessively rule following person, can't I get a bone once a while? Why are all Lawful alignment people in the game mean? xD Its as if writers don't like it when people follow rules of the game ;D Joking aside, I do have few things I'm bit confused about
So I had forgotten that Absalom Station ever since of Starfinder AP 1 has been canonically Neutral Good. So I was surprised to read that and then I was like "oh yeaaaah that is what first part of dead suns said". I think that is pretty good example of how Absalom Station has been portrayed doesn't reaaaaally feel like NG. Like lot of focus on Absalom Station is put on dark street corners, gangs, underworld and etc adventure friendly parts and lot of citizens just feel like regular neutral aligned people. Sure most of leadership is at least LG, but yeah adventures don't really often portray place as particularly nice place to live in. Which does make sense, even NG city can have dark streets and poorer ideas, but I do think its bit sign there should be more fiction or something to show why exactly Absalom Station is NG instead of Neutral.
Second thing that I'm particularly surprised about is that Marixah Republic is LG? I always though they were neutral, they come across as pretty shady in Society x'D
But yeah there were few other alignments I were surprised about (CG for Daimalko, LN for Castrovel) but they made sense enough for me. I do think Castrovel especially makes sense with how elves have been portrayed, so with formians being LN... But I did kinda think they would be good aligned overall because I'm still stuck in mindset that elves are supposed to be CG and I think Lashunta society was overally NG. Still though xenophobic starfinder elves don't really feel like CG so not particular surprise. But yeah, I do wonder what the feathered four eyed species is supposed to be and hey new jinsul art yay :D
Magic article really makes me wish for more examples of high and low magic worlds, since yeah I do think majority of starfinder stuff we have seen has been medium stuff :D I do also think magic article should remember possibility of high magic high technology world, after all both kishalee and sivvs focused on hybrid technomagical stuff ;D But yeah world building advice and flavor in these non biome sections are stellar, the three new artifacts included in this section are super fun as well. Kinda surprised to realize though we didn't have control winds in starfinder before this section.
Religion section feels shorter than other sections, so that makes it bit underwhelming to me. Still great stuff and I like deity specific armor upgrade options ;D Oras one is really handy
Technology guideline part is as long as magic one, so that high lights how short religion is in comparison :D Guidelines do great job of making you think and reminding you of things like "level of technology =/= culture's sophistication" and that its not necessary that every culture even wants to develop high technology level. Its also interesting reminder that while lot of pact worlds is medium magic/religion/accord, it and veskarium ARE high tech level worlds. Which does make sense with how you can find any form of technology in pact worlds.
But yeah, my favorite flavor part of article is Tech Categories one. 1 and 2 represent low tech worlds, 3-6 represent medium tech worlds and 7-9 are high ones. They being 1: Archaic Age, 2: Industrial Age, 3: Space Age, 4: Digital Age(this one is comparable to modern Earth), 5: Cybernetic Age, 6: Biotech Age, 7: Pre-Drift Age, 8: Drift Age(aka Pact Worlds and such ;D) and 9: Intergalactic Age.
9: Intergalactic Age is really fascinating for me since examples give in it are Kishalee and Sivv technology and... Aeon Guard technology. Aka Azlanti Technology is apparently either high enough that they could go intergalactic or close to it :O (I think it might be referring to thing in certain ap you prevent them from obtaining, but AG weapon and armor technology is still in this category. So I think implication is definitely that Azlanti Star Empire is somewhere between Pact Worlds/Veskarium and precursor civilizations in tech level: They have more advanced weapons and armors than pact worlds but not as much as Sivvs did, and they are close to being intergalactic.
(oh yeah tech items finally include mechanical representation for vidgames ;D Oh yeaaaaaaaaah)
Final part of the book goes to be super good guidelines on building sandbox campaign setting. I think this stuff will be most useful for me since I have wanted to do that sort of thing, but its really intimidating on galactic scale :'D I like how guidelines are being highlighted with example campaign setting being built by example GM.
After all the nice sandbox guidelines and subgenre descriptions, we have few articles full of random tables :D My favorite ones are drift encounter ones and legendary starship one. Drift encounter one because drift really feels like something more should happen during whenever you travel it instead of it just being boring "you travel 12 days in drift and see nothing unless adventure calls out for it". Especially since drift table highlights that chance of seeing absolutely nothing in drift is 1% XD
What about Legendary Starship one then? Well besides it being good inspiration fuel, the examples very clearly seem to be canonical legendary starships in the Starfinder setting itself, so it also works as extra lore article I'm always super hungry for x'D
My top five favorite ones are Exemplarion, The-Five-Who-Speak-As-One's nameless ship, Claws of Dahak(who aren't a ship but more like fleet. Sort of ;D), Shiveilo Princess(really classy ghost cruiser from what it sounds like ;D) and The Known Variable(XD)
...Sooo yeah. After few days of sitting on this I'm uh, still confused on how I "should" rate this. Basically biome section could be more exciting, but options in this and everything on Accord section and onwards is really great. I guess because reading book in order does end it on high note for me, I'll make my 4.5 score be 5 stars.
Hm, I am not sure.
The interaction between PCs and the society they live in is rather minimal in Starfinder also thanks to the gameist rules created for balance but which make no sense in game like the economy or starships for free. And also how Starfinder doesn't seem to even acknowledge modern concepts like organized police, licenses and IDs, etc.
So I am not sure how much value a culture generator will bring. If its just for flavor I do not need a generator for that.
Same for other exploration rules considering the tight wealth by level guidelines and free starship upgrades.
For my part, whatever they decide to do with this book, I'm putting the Pact Worlds setting in the Large Magellanic Cloud for campaigns I'll be running.
It's a really cozy but lively place down there in Nubecula Major, bustling with evolving races and civilizations.
It's also the first destination of choice for countless starfarers from the "mainland" of our galaxy wanting to explore beyond the outer rim.
The Milk Spiral dominates the night sky of every world in the Cloud, whether in Near Space or the Vast. It's the one cultural artifact nearly every civilization has in common, but the names and mythologies dreamed up about the Pageant of Heaven are as varied as the races themselves. "They say life here, began out there..."
Will this book also contain guidelines for creating and balancing equipment, such as how much damage dice a weapon should do when compared to it's range, special abilities, and crit abilities, or is that coming in the Tech Revolution book?
Truly hate to be the guy whose first response to a new book is to point at some possible errata, but:
1. Strafe (in particular) really seems like it should be a combat feat.
2. The prereqs for Urbanist seem off (and possibly just duped from the feat above it). Sense Motive as a prereq for a feat that (only) interacts with Survival and Culture checks? Seems like the prereq skill should be Survival?
So this is what I'm curious about: What guidance book gives about alignment, magic, religion and technology? Does it get involved mechanically or is it just general flavor guidance? :O (and what is accord in this context?)
So this is what I'm curious about: What guidance book gives about alignment, magic, religion and technology? Does it get involved mechanically or is it just general flavor guidance? :O
Depends on the topic. Alignment, for example, is general flavor, calling out lists of specific creatures and worlds as examples.
Magic and technology, again, generally flavor, but also gets into notes on elements like low- or high-magic worlds.
(Plus PC options thematically tied to everything.)
(and what is accord in this context?)
Accord is, in a nutshell, how interconnected and cosmopolitan a society is. (A la the Pact Accords.) Opening illustration is of a massive diplomatic gathering akin to the Republic Senate from Star Wars. Includes a subsystem for leadership, aka running an organization, which can be thought of as the 3E/Pathfinder Leadership feat minus the use of feats.