Starfinder Inspirational Material


General Discussion

Paizo Employee Starfinder Developer

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Hey there, Starfriends:

Amanda Hamon, John Compton, and I are going to go on the Starfinder Wednesday livestream today and talk about some of the amazing science fiction/science fantasy that drew us to this hobby and which continues to inspire us while working on this game. There's already a couple of pages of inspirational material in the back of the Core Rulebook, and more in the Beginner Box, but that really only scratches the surface. (And some of us are new to the Star Chamber and didn't get to put our faves on those lists!)

I bet all of YOU have your favorite movies, video games, television shows, novels, and more which have inspired you over the years. We want to know about it! So please share your own personal inspirations here. If you think we might not have heard of the material you're talking about, link to it! And please: tell us WHY this material inspires you and HOW you like to use it in your SF gaming! A long list of books and movies is a good start, but we want details!

Amanda, John, and I will be back after the stream to pick up the thread and add more inspirations of our own that we didn't have time to discuss.


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Louis McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga.

Steven Donaldson's Gap series.

Scarab Sages

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Dark Matter-The Netflix show

Star Trek & Star Wars

The video games X-Com and it’s sequel

Fallout Videogame series (I even statted up fallout monsters using the alien archive here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1l4b-KJ0YBJjFE-jWHnfyQ2lSDm-31JbmIhgZFmb qvBM )


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The "Star Ocean" video game series by Enix. Its pretty much exactly "magic fantasy in space", with both ubiquitous magic and space opera tech. Admittedly, the quality plummeted after the second one.

To a lesser extent, the "Tales Of" series, by Bandai-Namco. No space travel, but their societies tend to have the feel of "lost colonies", with magic that intermixes with advanced technology.


Xenocrat wrote:

Louis McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga.

Steven Donaldson's Gap series.

To expand on this, Vorkosigan has loooots of envoy/operative inspiration and some ideas for space mercenary/special ops plots as well as some espionage stuff.

The Gap is horrific alien bioscience, space pirates (the very bad kind), cyborgs, space police, and space operatic plots (in both sense of the word).


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Almost all things space have influenced what I do but these are the few things that really stand out for me in no particular order.

Farscape

Firefly

Starblazers/ Space Battleship Yamato

Riverworld and World Of Tiers series by Phillip Jose Farmer

And as for the setting of my campaign and many campaign campaign concepts.

Mass Effect Series

Destiny 1 & 2

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

My favorite science fiction franchise after several years is still Legend of the Galactic Heroes. There's lots of neat elements you can cherry-pick from it, especially the tone. But it's not the best format for a campaign, given the "epic scale" of the series' conflicts. It's doable, just not perfect.

My first introduction to the genres were Outlaw Star and Trigun, both of which are still near and dear to my heart. Outlaw Star is especially great for that "adventuring party in space" feel, and is super fun if you enjoy Firefly.

Psycho-Pass is also my go-to for urban intrigue sci-fi. I love a good detective story.

I've had a friend in a SFS group who also loved Gintama and it's technically scifi, but it's the definition of "not for everybody", since it's a goofy slapstick comedy.

Wayfinders

The show tonight was really interesting. Wish we would have had more time to hear about the new Starship book coming next year.

Paizo Employee Starfinder Developer

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Thanks to everyone who watched the show and who have already come on here to tell us about your favorite books/comics/games/films/shows/etc

I had forgotten about Stephen Donaldson's "Gap" series until Xenocrat mentioned it; what I love about this series is that it's secretly based on Wagner's "Ring of the Niebelungen" series, so one of the characters is a riff on Odin and another is a riff on Brunhild, and so on. This is a great example of the way creators take inspiration from something and use it to tell a new story that's saying something about the themes of the original story. Anyhow, if y'all have not read it, you're in for a treat.

Riverworld is a fantastic series and I absolutely love it, though I think it's a good example of SF which is hard to use in official Starfinder products. There is no Earth in Starfinder, and Riverworld stars every human being who has ever lived, from the Red Baron's younger brother to King John Lackland, Mark Twain, or Cyrano de Bergerac. (It was also adapted into a wonderful GURPS sourcebook back in the day.) Chris Carey, former senior editor here at Paizo, is probably the world's foremost PJF expert, and has written several books endorsed by the Farmer estate. So we're big fans of Farmer in these parts.

Corsair, I am sure there will be some streams where we talk about SOM soon. You'll get Joe and John up there, the experts, to give you some hard facts!

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I'd say a lot of the shows and movies that inspire me are ones that you commonly find for science fantasy (especially since many of them are in that list of recommended reading/viewing at the back of the book!), but there ARE a few things a little more outside the box.

First is a game I found inspirational before I even started playing it last week: Warframe! It's got some very intriguing world-building, has loads of cool-looking sci-fi weaponry to play around with (some of which I've attempted to replicate IN Starfinder), and for an MMO its story has some surprisingly dark and emotional turns that really get you invested in the characters and their struggles. I've only been actually playing it for about a week personally, but I'm already hooked. It gives a vibe very much like Starfinder itself, that the galaxy's burning, it needs heroes like you to fight for justice and peace, and look absolutely awesome while doing it!

On the opposite side of the emotional spectrum is a band, Gloryhammer! It has an explicit science-fantasy storyline (their first album being straight-up medieval fantasy, a la Pathfinder), featuring dwarves with laser crystal battleaxes, jetpacks made of cosmic steel, and an interplanetary empire where all the locations are named after towns in Scotland. They absolutely REVEL in the ridiculousness of the concept and you can't help but break into a cheesy grin yourself while rocking out to it. And it feels at times almost like a game of Starfinder itself come to life!


Oh, yes, definitely Outlaw Star. They have so many similar tropes to Starfinder. There is even magic guns that use spell ammo that's basically acts like a spell gem, only you don't need to know how to cast the spell. Some of the more powerful spell ammo though can deal harm to the caster.

I recommend Fifth Element, Ice Pirates, Titan A.E., Treasure Planet, Arena (1989), Soldier (1998), Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (movie and series), Galaxy Express 999 (or pretty much any space opera by Leiji Matsumoto), Cowboy Bebop & Space Dandy, Voltron: Legendary Defender (that's the Netflix version), Samurai Jack, FarScape, etc. Like I could probably pull out a bunch of different movies and shows if I sit here long enough.

Oh, and these are just the sci-fi stuff.


The Phantasy Star series is an important science fantasy game that I incorporate into most ttrpg's that I run. It's the idea that this evil comes back every millennium and humanity hasn't learned or changed. There's bits of lost technology and it blends Magic seamlessly. In one of them they thought they were in a medieval kingdom, but it was the biome off a Generation ship.

Heavy Metal is a really good gonzo science fantasy. I also like the art of metal bands. The night begins to shine is a really good episode of a really bad cartoon, teen titans go. If you like vaporwave and outrun style art, and cybernetic unicorns check it out

Kung Fury is worth watching. The Viking era has laser Raptors and Valkyrie with Maschine guns. Also time traveling hitler. It's a short film, check it out

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Wait. They announced the Starship book? Squeeeee!

Hmm


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Jason Tondro wrote:


Riverworld is a fantastic series and I absolutely love it, though I think it's a good example of SF which is hard to use in official Starfinder products.

To me all the Starfinder Society scenarios taking place on Salvation's End have some inspiration from Riverworld.

"Salvation's End description" wrote:
Salvation's End a moon-sized spacecraft filled with innumerable sealed simulation chambers that are run by an unknown intelligence.

I very well may use Riverworld for the PCs / NPcs afterlife. Not 100% sure.


Oh, Iain M. Banks Culture novels, of course.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

There's a podcast called 'Spacepod' which is done by a Professor of Planetary Studies at Olin College. She interviews fascinating people who make their careers studying space. I'm trying to build in real-world crazy into my space-world crazy.

Asteroids, in real life, are WEIRD. Way weirder than anything you might expect.

Paizo Employee Starfinder Developer

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I was so inspired by a course on The Great Courses about exoplanets. Every sf game has to get around to providing rules for generating star systems and planets; Traveler was famous for this, but GURPS has elaborate rules that try to simulate astrophysics. The problem is: our understanding of planetary systems has totally changed in the last twenty years! We used to think our system was normal. But, in fact, the most common kind of planet we have discovered around other stars is a kind of planet that does not exist at all in our solar system!

This is the beauty of the Deck of Many Worlds project which Joe has spearheaded for so long and which is now about to be in your hot little hands. Because it doesn't really touch on "realistic astrophysics" at all; it's about story hooks, cool environments, and creating conflicts. Which means that—unlike all those other random planet generation tables found in other RPGs—it won't become outdated in the next 5 years.

So, yeah! I totally second Yakman's appreciation for good documentaries and infotainment shows.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Jason Tondro wrote:

I was so inspired by a course on The Great Courses about exoplanets. Every sf game has to get around to providing rules for generating star systems and planets; Traveler was famous for this, but GURPS has elaborate rules that try to simulate astrophysics. The problem is: our understanding of planetary systems has totally changed in the last twenty years! We used to think our system was normal. But, in fact, the most common kind of planet we have discovered around other stars is a kind of planet that does not exist at all in our solar system!

This is the beauty of the Deck of Many Worlds project which Joe has spearheaded for so long and which is now about to be in your hot little hands. Because it doesn't really touch on "realistic astrophysics" at all; it's about story hooks, cool environments, and creating conflicts. Which means that—unlike all those other random planet generation tables found in other RPGs—it won't become outdated in the next 5 years.

So, yeah! I totally second Yakman's appreciation for good documentaries and infotainment shows.

In my long germinating homebrew campaign, i'm including these things called 'cthonic' planets, which are gas giants whose gas has burnt away or escaped.

How cool is that?

Or the real world example that one of the most habitable places in the solar system is the frozen methane moon of Titan?

There's so many weird and wild things in the real galaxy ...


I read David Brin's Uplift Cycle as a teenager and it's forever colored my concept of what "weird" can be when it comes to things like alien species and the various ways that galactic civilizations can be structured.

As mentioned in the stream, Mass Effect and Halo have both had a huge effect on me and how I view space opera and the kinds of stories that can be told through gameplay.

Currently I'm reading (and watching) The Expanse which without going into spoilers, deals with how introducing a species to technology far beyond their understanding can have massive implications.


Farscape and Mass Effect are probably my groups biggest influences.


Personally, I draw from a huge amount of material to one degree or another. Some just help me generate ideas and some I'll steal entire plots and/or even characters to mash something new together. Here's a sample of what I mean:

Television Series:
Star Trek (Enterprise, Classic, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager)
Star Wars (Clone Wars)
Babylon 5 and Crusade
Firefly (and Serenity movie)
Andromeda
Farscape (and Peacekeeper Wars movie)
Battlestar Galactica (original and reboot)
Stargate (SG-1 and Atlantis)
The Expanse
Dark Matter
Space: Above and Beyond
Doctor Who series
Lost in Space (original and Netflix reboot)
Space: 1999
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
Flash Gordon (yes, the old black and white shows)

Movies:
Star Trek movies
Star Wars movies
Babylon 5 movies
Stargate movie
Alien series (including Prometheus)
Predator series
I-Robot
Dune (several versions)
Interstellar
The Martian (good survival ideas)
The Matrix series (love those mechs)
Blade Runner
Robocop (original and reboot)
Total Recall (original and reboot)
Starship Troopers
Riddick movies (Pitch Black and so forth)
Pacific Rim and Pacific Rim Uprising
Galaxy Quest
Avatar
Ender's Game
Edge of Tomorrow
Jurassic Park series (ideas for genetics in campaigns)
Planet of the Apes series
Terminator series
Evolution
Lost in Space (movie here)
The Island
Flash Gordon (cheesy, but has some interesting ideas)
Gremlins 1 and 2 (great inspiration for Space Goblins)

Books:
David Brin's Uplift Cycle
Frank Herbert's Dune series (movies can only hold so much; books are better for detail)
Isaac Asimov (any - Empire series, Robot series, and Foundation series are all very good especially for character development)
George Orwell's 1984
H.G. Well's War of the Worlds
Aldous Huxley's Brave New World

Video Games:
Mass Effect series (I, II, III, and Andromeda)
X4 Foundation
Ark Survival (pairs well with Jurassic Park themes)
Bioshock series (a bit retro, but different)
Cyberpunk 2077 (should prove inspirational when launched)
Deus Ex series
Elite Dangerous
Total Annihilation (robots vs clones)
Fallout 4 (postapocalyptic ideas with a retro twist)
No Man's Sky (exploration)
Stellaris and Planetfall (4x strategy to add political dimensions to campaign plans)
Star Citizen (awesome ship companies, starships, and vehicles for inspiration)


Cowboy Bebop is basically how I want any crew to look. And working job to job in the solar system is just a fun way to run a more episodic campaign.

Outlaw Star and Trigun were also mentioned above. It is hard to not pull the western themes into Starfinder for me. I think it is why I like Akiton as a focal point for adventures.


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Well, this is my first time here sharing my opinion in a thread theme that i like it. Sry for my english because i am practising still. So lets begin. I like Starfinder in first time because its different to the tipical heroic fantasy. My passion since i was a child were sci ci inspired by films and video games. I would say that I like action in sci fi games in part from that inspiration from child. So between most notable inspiration are Colony Wars: Red Sun a videogame from PS1 or PSX where you are a pilot contracted to help others civilitation but the most importance of the game its defeat a corrupted giant space ship called Red Sun. Another good inspiration for me was Dino crisis, ok it isn´t sci fi, but like Metal Gear, could be a operativa (starfinder) getting infiltration in bases with Puzzle mini games. When i grew up i tend to more sci fi games but with more action like Starcraft or Dune. All this about videogames. About films i should say that Dune, alien, predator, madmax, Titan R.E. (i like it so much, its a old 3d animation film), ghost of mars by John carpenter were very important to my taste nowdays. I am sure that i forget a lot more.


Destiny 2 is a favorite of mine, and in fact I see a lot of the Guardians in the Solarian, specifically the Void and Solar subclasses ( and I usually call it Void Stance and Solar Stance instead of Graviton and Photon, respectively, because of it.)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

so.... I just finished watching this B-movie 'STAR RAIDERS: THE ADVENTURES OF SABER RAINE', starring Casper van Diem as the titular hero.

This movie is EXACTLY Starfinder. If you enjoy low-budget sci-fi movies, I cannot recommend it more.


I think an underappreciated (or at least, undermentioned) source of inspiration would be music, either independent or as soundtracks from movies or video games.

The entire discography of Ozric Tentacles
Judas Priest (for me it's been mostly Nostradamus, Firepower and Painkiller, with a mix of songs from other albums)
Gloryhammer (Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards and Tales from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex are amazing albums)
Muse (Knights of Cydonia and Supermassive Blackhole are pretty great songs)

For video games, I happen to have a lot of overlap between what's already mentioned in the core rulebook (Doom, Destiny, Borderlands, Halo, Starcraft, Stellaris, X-COM), with some extra bits of my own - mostly indie games, though.

Awesomenauts (miss playing that game)
Cortex Command
FTL: Faster than Light
Deep Rock Galactic (you could drop in the game's whole premise directly into Starfinder with basically no changes)
Heat Signature
Might & Magic (I believe this was even called out as an inspiration for Numeria in Pathfinder)
The Last Federation
Natural Selection 2
PlanetSide 2
Risk of Rain
Starbound
Warframe

And there's also some cartoon shows and animated movies, too:
Ben 10 (the original, Alien Force and Ultimate Alien primarily)
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Samurai Jack
Teen Titans
Generator Rex
Duck Dodgers
Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars
Treasure Planet
The Mandalorian (well okay this one is not animated but)
And I'm not sure if Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit counts but...


To me, what really helps is taking some classic fantasy adventure concept and putting a sci-fi spin on it, or conversely, taking a standard sci-fi adventure concept and sprucing it up with some distinctly fantasy elements.
(Though your preference for the proportions of the two may vary, as I happen to really love and lean into Starfinder's particular science fantasy mix, but I understand some people prefer to downplay some of those in their own games.)

For instance, I considered running a "fighting back a diabolic invasion, XCOM-style" campaign in D&D, before realizing how much-better suited Starfinder would be for it, especially once infused with the trappings and ideas that Starfinder has to offer that would be really janky to do in a normal high fantasy world.

Sure, fighting some bearded devils as part of a crusade is fun, but you know what's even more fun? Fighting bearded devils with laser rifles, as part of a space crusade!

But really, it's often that I just find myself watching some thing, or playing some game, or even listening to some music, and trying to imagine what running something like that would be like within Starfinder, substituting specific worldbuilding elements for the closest SF equivalents (making them up or adjusting where necessary, or taking advantage of adjacent lore bits in Starfinder if they're compelling enough, which to me they often are)


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Outlaw Star, is the closest thing to Starfinder next to Guardians of the Galaxy.

Gene is an Operative.

Jim is a Mechanic.

Aisha is an Envoy, multi classed with a Operative.

"Twilight" Suzuka is a an Operative, Multi classed with Soldier archetype QI ADEPT.

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