[Idea]: Non-Alien Starfinder Setting (and Campaign)


General Discussion


I was reading through some old interviews of Isaac Asimov, one of my favorite science fiction writers. He is the author of the Empire series, the Robot series (include the "I-Robot" account), and the Foundation series. And in his science fiction books in those series, he purposely left out aliens. So I was wondering about adapting his ideas to the Starfinder rules: a setting without aliens.

So I came up with a list of several character "race" options of what would be left if we removed aliens from the Starfinder setting (some of the 'examples' could fit in a different category, but I made my best guess). Now comes the challenge for creating these "homebrew" races. Some are already written up in the Starfinder rules, but I could use some help with the others (tweaking or creating). Here's the categories that I have so far:

Type I: Pure Strain Human (natural)
True humans conceived from unaltered gametes; also humans cloned from other standard humans are also standard humans. Examples include: Pure Strain Humans (Gamma World), humans (Pathfinder/Starfinder).
Source: Core Rulebook, p. 44-45

Type II: Clones
Same as natural humans only conceived through artificial means using existing DNA as its template. Examples include: “Tanks” (Space: Above and Beyond), Designer Babies, The Island, Clone Wars (Star Wars II), Picard/Shinzon (Star Trek Nemesis), Aeon Flux, The 6th Day, Oblivion, Multiplicity.

Type III: Augments/Transhumans (modified)
A sperm or egg with genetically-modified chromosomes makes a GMO-human, which could lead to speciation. Examples: “Augments” (Star Trek II; Enterprise), GATTACA, “Gelfs” (Genetically Engineered Lifeforms from Seaquest DSV), Touched by Vorlons (Babylon 5), Eloi/Morlocks (The Time Machine), the Fremen (Dune).

Type V: Mutants/Hybrids
They are humans that have been extensively modified with different species (such as adding gills, wings, fur, or other features) whether naturally, magically, or artificially. Examples include: Waterworld, The Island of Dr. Moreau, lycanthropy (werewolves), The Fly, X-Men series, Daleks (Doctor Who), Humanzee (chimpanzee/human hybrid).

Type VI: Uplifts
They are animals that have been extensively modified with human traits such as intelligence, speech, and tool-using capability. Examples include: “Ape” (Planet of the Apes), “Dolphins” “Chimps” “Gorillas” (David Brin’s Uplift War).
Source: Alien Archive 2, p. 16-17 (Uplifted Bear)

Type IV: Synthetics (Synthoid)
A biomechanical lifeform constructed to look human. They are constructed very similarly to their biological counterparts, but are silicon based lifeforms. They are not true GMOs; they are not genetic copy-paste. They are built from scratch using natural genomes as a guide, or spliced together from known genes. Examples: Rachel (Blade Runner_Synths), the twelve models (Battlestar Galactica 2004_Skinjobs), Splice, Elroy EL (Space: Above and Beyond_Silicates), David (Prometheus). It could also be argued that the synthetics from the Aliens series (Ash, Bishop, Call) are also synthetics since they 'bleed'. Synths are like the “Android” race from Pathfinder/Starfinder.
Source: Core Rulebook, p. 42-43

Type VII: Cyborgs
Beings with organic brains or intact nervous systems, but with machine body parts. Examples include: Officer Alex Murphy (RoboCop series), Star Wars, The Borg (Star Trek: First Contact_Borg), Cyberpunk 2077, Bionic Man).

Type VIII: Androids (“Droids”)
An artificial being constructed to resemble a human being and are difficult to distinguish by physical appearance. Mechanical brains with organic parts with sophisticated, but limited programming. Examples include Bicentennial Man, T-800s with organic camouflage (Terminator series), D.A.R.Y.L., Blade Runner_Worker models, Westworld androids.

Type IX: Mechanoids (full mechanical beings)
Fully mechanical being that resembles a human being; an automaton. Examples include: Pinocchio, Data/Lore (Star Trek), all of Asimov's other robots, the Toaster-cylons (Battlestar Galactica), Centurions (Battlestar Galactica), Terminator T-1000 & T-X, C-3PO, Sonny (I-Robot), Arthur (The Passengers), Cybermen (Doctor Who), and so forth.

Type X: Bots/Constructs/Golems
Fully constructed beings without “life” that obey commands (whether verbally given or programmed software) that do not resemble human beings. Examples include: R2D2 (Star Wars), Battle Droids (Star Wars), ED-209 (Robocop), Replicators (Stargate SG-1), TARS (Interstellar), Robby the Robot (Forbidden Planet), Robot (Lost in Space), Cylon Raider (Battlestar Galactica reboot), K-9 (Doctor Who), AMEE (Red Planet), Max (Flight of the Navigator), Johnny Cab (Total Recall), Twiki (Buck Rogers), Golems (fantasy games like Dungeons and Dragons).
Source: Alien Archive 1, p. 94-95 (Security Robot); Alien Archive 3, p. 86-87 (Robot), Alien Archive 2, p. 10-11 (Anacite), Alien Archive 2, p. 66-67 (Golem)

Type XI: Isomorph/Hologram (“Iso”)
A constructed, artificial being as a three-dimensional image formed by the interference of light beams and force fields from a laser or other coherent light source. Examples include: Quorra (Tron Legacy), The Doctor (Star Trek: Voyager).
Source: Alien Archive 3, p. 66-67 (Living Hologram)

Type XII: Pure Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)
A constructed set of programmed software with the capability of a computerized machine to imitate intelligent human behavior such as problem-solving and speech. Examples include: Skynet (the Terminator series), H.A.L. 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey), VIKI (I-Robot), Mother (Alien), EDI (Mass Effect 3), Agent Smith (The Matrix series), Jarvus (Iron Man series), Andromeda (Andromeda series), W.O.P.R. (War Games), Simone (Simone).

** Undead are intentionally left out. I strongly dislike undead.

So any advice/insight on making these character classes balanced for Starfinder gameplay for a setting where there are no aliens in the universe? (and if I missed some other Starfinder source references that would be useful, please point those out, too). Thank you for your help.


Frankly, my advice is to just reflavor the existing races as these things. I did something similar for a Starfinder/Pathfinder crossover game I'm running where the PCs are castaways from a future Earth stranded on Golarion. Essentially, what I did was open up all the racial options to them with the stipulation that they had to justify them in a setting without aliens but with very advanced technology. It gave them a sense of really contributing to the backstory while opening up options.

In the end we ended up with:
-2 baseline humans
-1 prototype genetically engineered pet that ended up far smarter than intended (Skittermander)
-1 uplifted bear from a social experiment/colonization effort on Mars
-1 transhuman in a fully synthetic body (Android)
-1 emancipated entertainment AI in a custom biological chassis (Lashunta)


Master Han Del of the Web wrote:
-1 prototype genetically engineered pet that ended up far smarter than intended (Skittermander)

So... one of your players is playing Stitch?


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I mean. . . if you are removing all the aliens from Starfinder, you really aren't using Starfinder the setting anymore. Why not just build a setting from scratch, rather than remove 99% of its contents?

( Yes, 99%. You aren't just removing the races as such, but also everything that logically derives from those races, which is nearly everything. )


Metaphysician wrote:

I mean. . . if you are removing all the aliens from Starfinder, you really aren't using Starfinder the setting anymore. Why not just build a setting from scratch, rather than remove 99% of its contents?

( Yes, 99%. You aren't just removing the races as such, but also everything that logically derives from those races, which is nearly everything. )

A valid point, and I might not use the setting at all. I have considered that, but no decision as to setting has been made yet. But that's a whole different issue.

Using the Starfinder rule set, I'm looking for input on making balanced races from these categories. As indicated, some categories already have some sources to draw from and use, but some do not. Please post any observations or suggestions to achieve this goal. Thank you.


kadance wrote:
Master Han Del of the Web wrote:
-1 prototype genetically engineered pet that ended up far smarter than intended (Skittermander)
So... one of your players is playing Stitch?

More sweet tempered than Stitch, but yeah.


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Metaphysician wrote:

I mean. . . if you are removing all the aliens from Starfinder, you really aren't using Starfinder the setting anymore. Why not just build a setting from scratch, rather than remove 99% of its contents?

( Yes, 99%. You aren't just removing the races as such, but also everything that logically derives from those races, which is nearly everything. )

Starfinder is more than a setting. There are entire 3rd party projects using the ruleset that never mention vesk at all.

I think this is a super-reasonable project, and well-represented in the inspirational material.


playable robot race called SRO is found in the pact worlds book.
-Beta


I agree about the third party products. One you might want to look at is Interface Zero. It'a non-magical cyberpunk version of Starfinder. It has a number of races similar to what op posted. It does have a psionic class and archetype, but those can be ignored if you want. It could make for a more "science" and less "fantasy" version of Starfinder.


Ja'ri'el wrote:
I agree about the third party products. One you might want to look at is Interface Zero. It'a non-magical cyberpunk version of Starfinder. It has a number of races similar to what op posted. It does have a psionic class and archetype, but those can be ignored if you want. It could make for a more "science" and less "fantasy" version of Starfinder.

I was just about to mention that: Interface Zero 2.0 for Starfinder

"Science has hacked the genome, unlocking the secrets of DNA to facilitate the creation of new breeds of human; genetic hybrids, human 2.0, and even simulacrum— a slave race grown in amniotic vats and sold on the open market."

There's also a couple of varieties of androids as well, IIRC, and no aliens nor magic. It's like shadowrun, without the fantasy.


Metaphysician wrote:

I mean. . . if you are removing all the aliens from Starfinder, you really aren't using Starfinder the setting anymore. Why not just build a setting from scratch, rather than remove 99% of its contents?

( Yes, 99%. You aren't just removing the races as such, but also everything that logically derives from those races, which is nearly everything. )

I mean... if OP is using the classes, themes, items, and other mechanics in Starfinder while only restricting the races, then why is the system a bad fit?

Is it any different than someone who wants to use Pathfinder to run an all-dwarves campaign?


Metaphysician wrote:
the setting
Ventnor wrote:
the system

Two very different things.


Greydoch wrote:

playable robot race called SRO is found in the pact worlds book.

-Beta

Nice one! I'll have to add that one to my list.

Keep those insights and suggestions coming. I appreciate everyone's help.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Ventnor wrote:
Metaphysician wrote:

I mean. . . if you are removing all the aliens from Starfinder, you really aren't using Starfinder the setting anymore. Why not just build a setting from scratch, rather than remove 99% of its contents?

( Yes, 99%. You aren't just removing the races as such, but also everything that logically derives from those races, which is nearly everything. )

I mean... if OP is using the classes, themes, items, and other mechanics in Starfinder while only restricting the races, then why is the system a bad fit?

Is it any different than someone who wants to use Pathfinder to run an all-dwarves campaign?

Restricting the race choices in a campaign, like in an all-dwarves game, is not at all the same thing as eliminating those races from existing in the setting. An all-dwarve Pathfinder game presumably has a world with all the usual societies and nations, composed of the usual species. The PCs are just all one species, as part of the premise of their particular story.

What is being proposed here is removing all the non-human races from the *setting*, entirely. Which means removing all the societies built around those non-human races, which is. . . essentially all of them.


Well you certainly could use the rules.

You will have to use a different setting.


It could be a very similar setting where the non-human cultures are now human cultures. Many, if not most, of the alien races were inspired by human cultures (the kasatha are vaguely Bedouin, for example, and the vesk have a somewhat samurai-like honor system).

So if that's the direction you want to go, more power to ya. Could be an interesting thought experiment.


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Metaphysician wrote:
What is being proposed here is removing all the non-human races from the *setting*, entirely. Which means removing all the societies built around those non-human races, which is. . . essentially all of them.

So he's not using the base Pact Worlds setting. Was that unclear?

As much as I enjoy Starfinder and the Pact Worlds setting, the fact that it is very much a sci-fi kitchen sink setting makes it less than ideal for exploring certain sci-fi themes. However the system is still very much useable, even if the race options are heavily trimmed down or reflavored.


Master Han Del of the Web wrote:


As much as I enjoy Starfinder and the Pact Worlds setting, the fact that it is very much a sci-fi kitchen sink setting makes it less than ideal for exploring certain sci-fi themes.

I am curious as to what themes you are talking about.


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Hawk Kriegsman wrote:
I am curious as to what themes you are talking about.

Off the top of my head:

-Serious exploration of transhuman and posthuman themes
-First Contact scenarios
-The intersection of science and religion
-Examinations of the very concept of 'alien'

The heavy influence of DnD-style supernatural elements forces a very blunt and shallow answer onto a lot of the bigger questions I like to see asked in my science fiction media. On top of that, fact that the stellar neighborhood is positively crowded with sentient species robs first contact and strange alien species of their narrative weight. The setting is also so far advanced that all the society redefining technologies came out years ago.

It's great for rip-roaring sci-fantasy adventures. Less ideal for more thoughtful stories about certain themes.


Thanks much!


So how would one go about making those racial classifications balanced? Any tips or ideas for those racial groups?


I'm still in favor of my earlier advice, if you want I can sit down tomorrow and reflavor a bunch of the existing races based on your criteria. It should keep things pretty balanced.

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