Starfinder Genre?


General Discussion


Sci Fi is a big tent. What genre is Starfinder set in?

-Hard Sci Fi (More tech, less magic)
-some science fantasy "orcs in space" mashup
-Space Opera

Curious to know.

Scarab Sages

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Science Fantasy, which is beyond Space Opera as far as realism, but Space Opera is the best starting point.


I agree with Imbicatus. Both Science Fantasy and Space Opera are good labels to classify Starfinder under.


I suppose a little cosmic horror from the "dark tapestry" wouldn't hurt. As cartoonist John Kovalic once said, "Cthulhu is the bacon of gaming." I could also see a ghost ship with a zombie crew happening, OK. Maybe science fantasy isn't so bad.

My initial reacrion was "keep your fantasy out of my Sci Fi", but I'm willing to give it a shot.


i have been thinking of it as a sort of sci-fi kitchen sink setting, much as Pathfinder is. there is room for running many different kinds of games though some may require more player buy in than others (Alien would be a very different kind of movie if the crew had cast protection from acid and could will energy swords into existence... of if they just had better Fort saves really...)

Scarab Sages

Calamari wrote:


My initial reacrion was "keep your fantasy out of my Sci Fi", but I'm willing to give it a shot.

I think most if not all popular science fiction is actually science fantasy. Star Trek has telepathic vulcans and betazoids, actual gods in the Q, and technology that has no basis in currently knows science like transporters and replicators. Star Wars has the force. Stargate has stargates. The expanse has drugs that counteract the physical force of excessive gravity on a human body.


Calamari wrote:
I suppose a little cosmic horror from the "dark tapestry" wouldn't hurt.

As one (or if it's got even just the major forms from Pathfinder three) of the Core Gods is one of the Outer Gods of the Dark Tapestry I can see that being a relatively common theme even. Besides, even in more normal sci-fi horror (almost) eldritch horrors aren't exactly uncommon.


Calamari wrote:


My initial reacrion was "keep your fantasy out of my Sci Fi", but I'm willing to give it a shot.

Yeah, when the genre is described by the creators as "Science Fantasy" and the setting has spells, gods and magically enhanced weaponry.. we are looking at Reeses PB cups - two great tastes that taste great together.

I'm seriously thinking of looking any all my all Dragonstar stuff and converting, and running in that setting.


Imbicatus wrote:
Calamari wrote:


My initial reacrion was "keep your fantasy out of my Sci Fi", but I'm willing to give it a shot.

I think most if not all popular science fiction is actually science fantasy. Star Trek has telepathic vulcans and betazoids, actual gods in the Q, and technology that has no basis in currently knows science like transporters and replicators. Star Wars has the force. Stargate has stargates. The expanse has drugs that counteract the physical force of excessive gravity on a human body.

I get what you are saying and agree with your point but... have you seen Stargate? If the gates are the thing you call out as the most magical aspect of the setting... you have a lot to look forward to in those shows. Lots and lots and lots of space gods using space magic and existing in magical space dinners on outer planes just chilling and being gods. Oh and at least one 20th level oracle casting divine spells on planetary levels towards the end of SG-1.

Scarab Sages

Torbyne wrote:
Imbicatus wrote:
Calamari wrote:


My initial reacrion was "keep your fantasy out of my Sci Fi", but I'm willing to give it a shot.

I think most if not all popular science fiction is actually science fantasy. Star Trek has telepathic vulcans and betazoids, actual gods in the Q, and technology that has no basis in currently knows science like transporters and replicators. Star Wars has the force. Stargate has stargates. The expanse has drugs that counteract the physical force of excessive gravity on a human body.
I get what you are saying and agree with your point but... have you seen Stargate? If the gates are the thing you call out as the most magical aspect of the setting... you have a lot to look forward to in those shows. Lots and lots and lots of space gods using space magic and existing in magical space dinners on outer planes just chilling and being gods. Oh and at least one 20th level oracle casting divine spells on planetary levels towards the end of SG-1.

Yeah I was being brief, and it's been about 7 years since I last watched SG 1 or Atlantis.


Imbicatus wrote:
Calamari wrote:


My initial reacrion was "keep your fantasy out of my Sci Fi", but I'm willing to give it a shot.

I think most if not all popular science fiction is actually science fantasy. Star Trek has telepathic vulcans and betazoids, actual gods in the Q, and technology that has no basis in currently knows science like transporters and replicators. Star Wars has the force. Stargate has stargates. The expanse has drugs that counteract the physical force of excessive gravity on a human body.

Well, pretty much all non near future SF has some level of "technology that has no basis in currently known science". If nothing else, some form of FTL is handwaved into existence so we can go out and interact with the rest of the universe.

I'd guess Star Wars is likely the closest match for Starfinder, with magic taking the place of the Force.


I'm thinking there should be a Starfinder equivalent to Alkenstar where you can go and have a harder sci fi experience with Mystics and Technomancers and maybe even Solarians not being very effective.

Scarab Sages

Azih wrote:
I'm thinking there should be a Starfinder equivalent to Alkenstar where you can go and have a harder sci fi experience with Mystics and Technomancers and maybe even Solarians not being very effective.

It depends on if Anti-magic zones are a thing and how common they are.


thejeff wrote:
Imbicatus wrote:
Calamari wrote:


My initial reacrion was "keep your fantasy out of my Sci Fi", but I'm willing to give it a shot.

I think most if not all popular science fiction is actually science fantasy. Star Trek has telepathic vulcans and betazoids, actual gods in the Q, and technology that has no basis in currently knows science like transporters and replicators. Star Wars has the force. Stargate has stargates. The expanse has drugs that counteract the physical force of excessive gravity on a human body.

Well, pretty much all non near future SF has some level of "technology that has no basis in currently known science". If nothing else, some form of FTL is handwaved into existence so we can go out and interact with the rest of the universe.

I'd guess Star Wars is likely the closest match for Starfinder, with magic taking the place of the Force.

It's pretty much all space opera. Hard SF limits itself to real world science and direct extrapolations. But it still manages to be full of glaring errors.


Fardragon wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Imbicatus wrote:
Calamari wrote:


My initial reacrion was "keep your fantasy out of my Sci Fi", but I'm willing to give it a shot.

I think most if not all popular science fiction is actually science fantasy. Star Trek has telepathic vulcans and betazoids, actual gods in the Q, and technology that has no basis in currently knows science like transporters and replicators. Star Wars has the force. Stargate has stargates. The expanse has drugs that counteract the physical force of excessive gravity on a human body.

Well, pretty much all non near future SF has some level of "technology that has no basis in currently known science". If nothing else, some form of FTL is handwaved into existence so we can go out and interact with the rest of the universe.

I'd guess Star Wars is likely the closest match for Starfinder, with magic taking the place of the Force.

It's pretty much all space opera. Hard SF limits itself to real world science and direct extrapolations. But it still manages to be full of glaring errors.

I do think a distinction between "space opera" and the kind of SF + fantasy that Starfinder seems to be is useful. There's a difference between "full of glaring science errors" and "has actual spellcasters". Or even between handwaving some probably impossible tech (like FTL) and the Force.

Parallel might be that cyberpunk is full of unrealistic tech - both implants and computer tech, but Shadowrun has all of that and mages and spirits and immortal dragons.


I get the impression that Starfinder will be to Science Fiction as D&D is to fantasy: terrible for hard sci-fi as D&D is terrible for hard alt-history, but otherwise can encompass practically any Circus Act you can throw under the Tent. Sci-horror, Space Opera, loose sci-fi, pulp, etc.

When I run SF (perfect acronym, by the way), though I will be following the AP, I will likely give my campaign a bit of Star Wars vibe, because I have the feeling that will be the undercurrent that comes easiest to include.


All the genres, depending on where you are in the galaxy.

Liberty's Edge

It seems strange to me that some folks actively ignore the straight up D&D-inspired spellcasting and other magic when thinking about or describing Starfinder. To me that's the main selling point. There are hundreds of hard SF and space opera settings and games out there. "D&D in futurespace" is far less common. I agree with the above poster that it is space opera equivalent of Shadowrun, not Star Wars.

Scarab Sages Developer, Starfinder Team

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Science fantasy.
There's high tech, and some of the tropes and questions that those bring. But there is explicit magic, deities, demons, and fantasy races baked right in.
It's a fantasy setting advanced to advanced science.


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Reynard wrote:
It seems strange to me that some folks actively ignore the straight up D&D-inspired spellcasting and other magic when thinking about or describing Starfinder. To me that's the main selling point. There are hundreds of hard SF and space opera settings and games out there. "D&D in futurespace" is far less common. I agree with the above poster that it is space opera equivalent of Shadowrun, not Star Wars.

Though honestly, Star Wars isn't far off - if you substitute the Force for magic. Probably the closest mainstream equivalent.

Scarab Sages Developer, Starfinder Team

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At least in total options available, Star Trek isn't far off either. I has actual gods (like, Apollo, but also Q and multiple various other apparently all-powerful entities), different races from other planets than can still cross-breed (logic elves and half-logic elves), psychic abilities, cultures still using melee weapons, teleportation, alternate planes (at least alternate Material planes, but also where the folks from "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" are trapped), vampires (salt vampires, at minimum), and so on.

The TONE is a bit different, but that's more show set-up than universe or cosmology.


thejeff wrote:
Reynard wrote:
It seems strange to me that some folks actively ignore the straight up D&D-inspired spellcasting and other magic when thinking about or describing Starfinder. To me that's the main selling point. There are hundreds of hard SF and space opera settings and games out there. "D&D in futurespace" is far less common. I agree with the above poster that it is space opera equivalent of Shadowrun, not Star Wars.
Though honestly, Star Wars isn't far off - if you substitute the Force for magic. Probably the closest mainstream equivalent.

Guardians of the Galaxy is at least as good a match, perhaps even better once you include all the weird stuff in the rest of the Marvel Universe.

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