Ask Me Anything (about astrazoans or scyphozoans)


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Grand Lodge Contributor

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Interstellar Species was released this month, and with it, many playable Starfinder species got new art, lore, and rules. Of those species, astrazoans and scyphozoans are very special to me--I designed them forPact Worlds and AP #5, respectively, and I also wrote the new entries for them in Interstellar Species.

If you have any questions about the strange shapeshifting starfish or the noxious, nidifugous cnidarians, let me know and I'll try to answer your questions here! Feel free to also comment on what you like / don't like about them. Or share stories about astrazoan / scyphozoan PCs.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I have a player who's been playing an astrazoan PC ever since Pact Worlds came out. She isn't on the forum but I'll ask her if there's anything in particular she wants to ask.

Wayfinders

I'm looking at playing an astrazoan. I realize shapeshifting wouldn't give you the ability to understand different languages you don't already know. But if you already know the language of a species you shapeshift into how well would an astrazoan be at sounding like a native speaker?

The scyphozoans looks really cool too, just reading up on them now.

Just read how scyphozoans communicate, so a better question might be if a astrazoan shapeshifts to look like a scyphozoan while speaking common out of the water, would they sound like an astrazoan or popping carbonated bubbles?

Grand Lodge Contributor

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Driftbourne wrote:

I'm looking at playing an astrazoan. I realize shapeshifting wouldn't give you the ability to understand different languages you don't already know. But if you already know the language of a species you shapeshift into how well would an astrazoan be at sounding like a native speaker?

The scyphozoans looks really cool too, just reading up on them now.

Just read how scyphozoans communicate, so a better question might be if a astrazoan shapeshifts to look like a scyphozoan while speaking common out of the water, would they sound like an astrazoan or popping carbonated bubbles?

I'd definitely allow them to sound like scyphozoans (or whatever species they're imitating) regardless of whether they're speaking Common or another language they've learned to speak. They're very good at imitating humanoids and aberrations, so I'd say an astrazoan can re-shape their voice box upon transformation. Also, most astrazoans live among other species (and their neighbors don't necessarily know about their true identities), so from a lore perspective, it makes sense that an astrazoan can alter their voice to match their appearance.

Rules-wise, it's a bit of a gray area, but I'd argue that altering one's voice is part of the Disguise check to create a disguise (which is essentially what an astrazoan also does when they transform). The Disguise skill entry in the CRB only mentions changing one's appearance, but for example, the voice modulator's (CRB p. 209) rules text strongly suggests that imitating accents and alien languages does in fact fall under the Disguise skill. As normally, piercing a disguise requires a move action and a successful Perception check, so most of the time, an astrazoan doesn't have to be afraid to open their mouth.

Dark Archive

Oh hey cool I didn't realize ye were the one who wrote them :D

I can't think of question to ask right now, been long time since I played astrazoan in agaisnt the aeon throne x'D

Grand Lodge Contributor

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CorvusMask wrote:
Oh hey cool I didn't realize ye were the one who wrote them :D

That's how it is with astrazoans, you never know who they really are... ;-) But yes it was me. Made in Finland. :D

Wayfinders

"as long as they have seen a similar creature
before. They can attempt to either mimic a specific
creature or look like a general creature of the chosen
type."

What if the chosen creature happens to be a 3d cartoon you have interacted with in a video game could an astrazoan shapeshift into something like that?

Would shapeshifing for an astrazoan include basic clothing as well?

Grand Lodge Contributor

Driftbourne wrote:

"as long as they have seen a similar creature

before. They can attempt to either mimic a specific
creature or look like a general creature of the chosen
type."

What if the chosen creature happens to be a 3d cartoon you have interacted with in a video game could an astrazoan shapeshift into something like that?

Would shapeshifing for an astrazoan include basic clothing as well?

Great questions! I'd say playing a video game wouldn't count as having seen a creature. Or at the very least, it would carry a heavy penalty to the Disguise check.

The astrazoan's change form doesn't add or change their clothes, so transforming between two very different forms can be tricky unless wearing very flexible or loose-fitting clothes. Armor can also be a bit problematic: "Armor comes in different sizes for different creatures, and you might have to adjust a suit of armor to fit you if it wasn’t made for your race. A ysoki can’t effectively wear armor made for a human, and a kasatha needs to adjust armor that was made for a two-armed creature. If it’s in doubt whether a creature can fit the suit, the GM decides whether the armor needs to be adjusted. When you buy armor new, the purchase price includes any adjustments."

As a GM, I'd probably rule that changing between e.g. human, android, and lashunta forms wouldn't require any adjustments, but changing from human to kasatha while wearing armor would fail. Some equipment, spells, etc. may help a bit, such as this: shiftskin


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

How much did you have to leave 'on the cutting room floor' in your write-up of the astrazoans?

When you visualize the species, are there any classes you'd view them as 'unsuited' for?

Do astrazoans get extra unwanted attention from the Dominion of the Black and other nasty factions because of their amorphous starfish nature if they are 'outed'?

Wayfinders

Mikko Kallio wrote:
Driftbourne wrote:

"as long as they have seen a similar creature

before. They can attempt to either mimic a specific
creature or look like a general creature of the chosen
type."

What if the chosen creature happens to be a 3d cartoon you have interacted with in a video game could an astrazoan shapeshift into something like that?

Would shapeshifing for an astrazoan include basic clothing as well?

Great questions! I'd say playing a video game wouldn't count as having seen a creature. Or at the very least, it would carry a heavy penalty to the Disguise check.

The astrazoan's change form doesn't add or change their clothes, so transforming between two very different forms can be tricky unless wearing very flexible or loose-fitting clothes. Armor can also be a bit problematic: "Armor comes in different sizes for different creatures, and you might have to adjust a suit of armor to fit you if it wasn’t made for your race. A ysoki can’t effectively wear armor made for a human, and a kasatha needs to adjust armor that was made for a two-armed creature. If it’s in doubt whether a creature can fit the suit, the GM decides whether the armor needs to be adjusted. When you buy armor new, the purchase price includes any adjustments."

As a GM, I'd probably rule that changing between e.g. human, android, and lashunta forms wouldn't require any adjustments, but changing from human to kasatha while wearing armor would fail. Some equipment, spells, etc. may help a bit, such as this: shiftskin

To count as have seen, how long would you have to observe a creature?


Say hello to the Scyphozoans of Earth.

Wayfinders

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UnArcaneElection wrote:

Say hello to the Scyphozoans of Earth.

Hello, scyphozoans of earth.

Wayfinders

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I'm rather fascinated by the concept of scyphozoan biopoetry. You could grow a book on the subject...

Large fungi can grow in 3 to 4 days, which might make for an interesting downtime activity. Shot from biowriting could all so be useful for making spell scrolls or used for divination and fortune telling.

Is there anything you can tell us about the inspiration behind the idea of biopoetry?


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Do astrazoans have any kind of extra bonus to identifying each other while disguised? I'd assume the answer is no, which would be one of the reasons why astrazoans have a hard time forming their own communities.

A definitely serious question from a post I made elsewhere on this forum: When does someone in the Starfinder universe develop a vidgame about an Astrozoan getting married and raising a family, all while disguised as a human? Maybe have an antagonist who is some kind of chef, hunting the Astrozoan. Just an idea. (Apologies to Young Horses.)

Grand Lodge Contributor

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Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


How much did you have to leave 'on the cutting room floor' in your write-up of the astrazoans?

When you visualize the species, are there any classes you'd view them as 'unsuited' for?

Do astrazoans get extra unwanted attention from the Dominion of the Black and other nasty factions because of their amorphous starfish nature if they are 'outed'?

I wrote probably 10-20% more material than I was able to include in my turnovers for the entries in Pact Worlds and Interstellar Species. During development Paizo cut and/or replaced maybe another 10-20%, e.g. to make space for art but also to add some cool stuff.

So, it's not all that much. My process of writing is usually 1. make a list of ideas you want to write about, 2. put them in a logical order to form a skeleton for the text, 3. write a bunch of paragraphs, starting with the most obvious parts (what you need to include, or what you feel most inspired about), 4. check how close you are to target word count. If you still need more content, go back to step 1 and considering what you've written so far, add more ideas (and drop ideas that no longer fit). So, most of the pruning happens at the ideation stage rather than cutting huge chunks of fully developed text.

As for unsuited classes, I guess the way Starfinder's ability score point-buy works, it's possible to get suitable stats for just about any class, but given their +2 Dex, +2 Cha, -2 Con they're slightly more inclined toward "face" and "trickery" type of classes and slightly less likely to be front-line fighters.

From a flavor perspective, any class that helps them fit in (or for some astrazoans, to fool people) is attractive to them, so e.g. envoys and operatives, or spellcasters should work well. Conversely, any class that doesn't give them so many skills (or spells, or other abilities that make them more versatile) to play with means they can't impersonate quite so many different types of people. So, for that reason, too, they're less likely to become e.g. soldiers or solarians, though of course, the right combination of background, archetype, and gear can help a lot.

The strange DNA of astrazoans may indeed be of interest to the Dominion of the Black and some other shady factions. And that's the kind of stuff astrazoans have nightmares about--getting abducted by cultists and whatnot. The Dominion of the Black is very Lovecraft-flavored, and I actually also used some of Lovecraft's creatures/writings as inspiration for astrazoans, so there's an interesting connection there.

Grand Lodge Contributor

Driftbourne wrote:
Mikko Kallio wrote:
Driftbourne wrote:

"as long as they have seen a similar creature

before. They can attempt to either mimic a specific
creature or look like a general creature of the chosen
type."

What if the chosen creature happens to be a 3d cartoon you have interacted with in a video game could an astrazoan shapeshift into something like that?

Would shapeshifing for an astrazoan include basic clothing as well?

Great questions! I'd say playing a video game wouldn't count as having seen a creature. Or at the very least, it would carry a heavy penalty to the Disguise check.

The astrazoan's change form doesn't add or change their clothes, so transforming between two very different forms can be tricky unless wearing very flexible or loose-fitting clothes. Armor can also be a bit problematic: "Armor comes in different sizes for different creatures, and you might have to adjust a suit of armor to fit you if it wasn’t made for your race. A ysoki can’t effectively wear armor made for a human, and a kasatha needs to adjust armor that was made for a two-armed creature. If it’s in doubt whether a creature can fit the suit, the GM decides whether the armor needs to be adjusted. When you buy armor new, the purchase price includes any adjustments."

As a GM, I'd probably rule that changing between e.g. human, android, and lashunta forms wouldn't require any adjustments, but changing from human to kasatha while wearing armor would fail. Some equipment, spells, etc. may help a bit, such as this: shiftskin

To count as have seen, how long would you have to observe a creature?

Well, the rules don't say that you have to observe the creature for any given amount of time, so I guess you can change immediately upon encountering a new species. Again, at the GM's discretion, it may not be possible to imitate a creature (or there may be a penalty to the Disguise check) if there's something that prevents you from properly observing the creature. For example, if a creature is swimming in a lake so you can only see its head.

Grand Lodge Contributor

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UnArcaneElection wrote:

Say hello to the Scyphozoans of Earth.

Hello, scyphozoans of Earth! :-D

I originally named the species scyphozoid so it would sound a bit different from the real-world class of species, but in development it was changed to scyphozoan. In fact, if you google scyphozoid, you'll probably see some search results about the DeviantArt account of the artist who created the art for the species entry in AP #5. As far as I know, art orders usually go out quite early on in the process, so when the artist got the art notes, it was still named scyphozoid.


Arbalester wrote:

Do astrazoans have any kind of extra bonus to identifying each other while disguised? I'd assume the answer is no, which would be one of the reasons why astrazoans have a hard time forming their own communities.

In Interstellar Species there is a feat which lets shapeshifters more easily detect other shapeshifter. And while not limited to a specific species its listed in the astrazoan section.

Wayfinders Contributor

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I am so envious of this thread. Mind if I make one of my own for Worlanisi and Dirindi?

Grand Lodge Contributor

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Driftbourne wrote:

I'm rather fascinated by the concept of scyphozoan biopoetry. You could grow a book on the subject...

Large fungi can grow in 3 to 4 days, which might make for an interesting downtime activity. Shot from biowriting could all so be useful for making spell scrolls or used for divination and fortune telling.

Is there anything you can tell us about the inspiration behind the idea of biopoetry?

That's actually one of the cool ideas that Paizo's developer added. I had established the idea that they use genetically engineered organisms to grow things that most other species build, but all of my examples were rather ... pragmatic: vehicles, lighting, computers, etc. So, kudos to the developer for adding a recreational use for biotech!

I love the idea of using bio-writing for divination!

Grand Lodge Contributor

Arbalester wrote:

Do astrazoans have any kind of extra bonus to identifying each other while disguised? I'd assume the answer is no, which would be one of the reasons why astrazoans have a hard time forming their own communities.

A definitely serious question from a post I made elsewhere on this forum: When does someone in the Starfinder universe develop a vidgame about an Astrozoan getting married and raising a family, all while disguised as a human? Maybe have an antagonist who is some kind of chef, hunting the Astrozoan. Just an idea. (Apologies to Young Horses.)

As Radam mentioned, there's a feat for that in the same book. Shapeshifters have a lot of experience in trying to spot mistakes in their own disguises, so it makes sense they could also learn to notice similar mistakes in others.

I'm sure Pact Worlds soap operas and other shows occasionally feature astrazoan characters (who may or may not be played by astrazoan actors), sometimes just for laughs and sometimes in more serious roles. It should be noted that astrazoans can't produce hybrid offspring, so the rest of the family would be astrazoans, too. Of course, screenwriters, showrunners, etc. may not be aware of that fact.

Grand Lodge Contributor

Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:
I am so envious of this thread. Mind if I make one of my own for Worlanisi and Dirindi?

I don't mind at all! Looking forward to reading more about your creatures. :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Oh, here's one: When does "astrozoan" become the new "solarion" or "rouge"?

(I was writing up a bio for an astrazoan character when I realized I had misspelled the name several times!)


I have dozens if not hundreds of questions on astrazoans, however very few of them can be expressed in ways suitable for these forums. I'll try my best, but someone has to ask the dirty questions.

Quote:
Well, the rules don't say that you have to observe the creature for any given amount of time, so I guess you can change immediately upon encountering a new species. Again, at the GM's discretion, it may not be possible to imitate a creature (or there may be a penalty to the Disguise check) if there's something that prevents you from properly observing the creature. For example, if a creature is swimming in a lake so you can only see its head.

On that note, if an astrazoan has only ever seen a species clothed, are they going to just be doing guess work as to what's underneath? Obviously with the existance of the infosphere that information can be easy to find if they don't mind having a suspect search history but for an on the fly situation is it just an educated guess as to whether or not a species has nipples or a bellybutton?

Also I feel that there's an apparent contradiction in Interstellar Species when the section on their physical description specifies that their shapeshifting doesn't change their internal organs, but only a paragraph later in the life cycle section it mentions that a pregnant astrazoan's body "reflexively" changes to allow for either laying an egg or carrying a live embryo to conform to their assumed form's reproductive biology.

While certainly a useful trait for disguise, that would seemingly require the shapeshifting to affect the internal organs & that it happens reflexively seems to imply that their body makes some instinctual determination as to whether the species they're emulating at a given moment lays eggs or gives live birth, if nothing else, which has some implications for my other question I suppose.

While we're on the topic; can astrazoans only reproduce amongst themselves or could they impregnate or be impregnated by members of the species they're shapeshifted into & if so what would that mean for the offspring? It also mentions that they can choose to grow male or female reproductive organs; could an individual astrazoan do both simultaneously & impregnate itself, effectively cloning itself?

Okay, moving away from the sex related questions for now which I've hopefully worded in such a way that won't get this post deleted or this thread closed, I do have some other questions that kind of boil down to the core question of, how much can an astrazoan 'play' with their shapeshifting? Like, while assuming the form of a human, could an astrazoan have one of it's native form's knee-eyes just open up on a random part of their body that corresponds to where they rearranged themselves to?

Can they mix and match traits from different species at the same time? Obviously to no mechanical benefit, but could one just be walking around with the horns of a nuar, the head of a shirren, the torso of a vesk, the arms of a kalo, and the orb of a bantrid, just to mess with people or as an experiment in self identity or a fashion statement?


Mikko Kallio wrote:

{. . .}

I originally named the species scyphozoid so it would sound a bit different from the real-world class of species, but in development it was changed to scyphozoan. {. . .}

Did this. Although if I was a jellyfish, I probably wouldn't want to be holding a rifle, unless I was sure it was reactionless . . . .

Grand Lodge Contributor

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Arbalester wrote:

Oh, here's one: When does "astrozoan" become the new "solarion" or "rouge"?

(I was writing up a bio for an astrazoan character when I realized I had misspelled the name several times!)

Or the new "thiefling"? :-D Speaking of which, I really appreciate the humor the folks at Owlcat have injected into the Wrath of the Righteous CRPG. In that game, there's a group of tiefling thieves called... well you guessed it.

I've also heard that "astrazoan" mutated into "Astro Owen" in Paizo's Star Chamber. (The TTRPG gaming guru Owen KC Stephens was working on Starfinder at the time.)

Grand Lodge Contributor

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FormerFiend wrote:


On that note, if an astrazoan has only ever seen a species clothed, are they going to just be doing guess work as to what's underneath? Obviously with the existance of the infosphere that information can be easy to find if they don't mind having a suspect search history but for an on the fly situation is it just an educated guess as to whether or not a species has nipples or a bellybutton?

I think an astrazoan can intuitively extrapolate from what information they have, and as they become more and more familiar with a species, they can add new details on the fly. But sometimes when working with partial information, they get the details wrong. The rules don't cover all the corner cases, so in practice, the GM and player should agree on whether they want to roleplay the process of studying a new species, or not.

FormerFiend wrote:
Also I feel that there's an apparent contradiction in Interstellar Species when the section on their physical description specifies that their shapeshifting doesn't change their internal organs, but only a paragraph later in the life cycle section it mentions that a pregnant astrazoan's body "reflexively" changes to allow for either laying an egg or carrying a live embryo to conform to their assumed form's reproductive biology.

The paragraph was changed slightly in development, but way I thought it would work is that they produce an egg regardless of the species they're imitating, and they're so adaptive that they can choose to be oviparous (lay an egg) or ovoviviparous (the egg develops internally). The main difference is that if the egg develops externally, the child also reflexively develops a tougher shell for the egg, and slows down or accelerates their metabolism to develop slower/faster. So nothing else changes, really. The same body parts do the work, just in a slightly different way.

FormerFiend wrote:
While we're on the topic; can astrazoans only reproduce amongst themselves or could they impregnate or be impregnated by members of the species they're shapeshifted into & if so what would that mean for the offspring? It also mentions that they can choose to grow male or female reproductive organs; could an individual astrazoan do both simultaneously & impregnate itself, effectively cloning itself?

They can't hybridize or self-fertilize, so they have to find another astrazoan. Otherwise they'd likely be far more populous.

FormerFiend wrote:

Okay, moving away from the sex related questions for now which I've hopefully worded in such a way that won't get this post deleted or this thread closed, I do have some other questions that kind of boil down to the core question of, how much can an astrazoan 'play' with their shapeshifting? Like, while assuming the form of a human, could an astrazoan have one of it's native form's knee-eyes just open up on a random part of their body that corresponds to where they rearranged themselves to?

Can they mix and match traits from different species at the same time? Obviously to no mechanical benefit, but could one just be walking around with the horns of a nuar, the head of a shirren, the torso of a vesk, the arms of a kalo, and the orb of a bantrid, just to mess with people or as an experiment in self identity or a fashion statement?

They have to choose forms that are similar to creatures they've seen before, so the things mentioned above wouldn't work. The transformation is instinctive for the most part, so when an astrazoan changes shape, the mental process is more like "I want to look like an elf/that elf" than "I am going to make my limbs longer and my ears pointy". They can mimic both specific creatures and general ones, so they've got a bit of range there, but can't go beyond the usual range of options for a species.


I do appreciate the answers though I'd be lying if I said I didn't find the last one somewhat disappointing.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Interesting random thought...

So if an Astrazoan saw a creature, it would be able to reproduce the look of the creature. Now does the prior statement change if said creature they saw, was not a real creature, but a creature produced by illusion magic?

Wayfinders

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An astrazoans internal organs don't change when shapeshifting. What happens to their internal organs when an astrazoans shapeshifts into a translucent scyphozoan?

Could an astrazoan shapeshift out of a baneful or regular polymorph?


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Driftbourne wrote:


Could an astrazoan shapeshift out of a baneful or regular polymorph?

This is in the basic polymorph rules. Any subsequent polymorph/change shape effect, including one you activate yourself, ends a current polymorph effect.

Grand Lodge Contributor

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UnArcaneElection wrote:
Mikko Kallio wrote:

{. . .}

I originally named the species scyphozoid so it would sound a bit different from the real-world class of species, but in development it was changed to scyphozoan. {. . .}

Did this. Although if I was a jellyfish, I probably wouldn't want to be holding a rifle, unless I was sure it was reactionless . . . .

While they're evolved from simple Primorian jellyfish, they're actually beefier than the average human. Although a scyphozoan doesn't have a skeletal structure, they have muscle and other tissue that make up for it.

Grand Lodge Contributor

FormerFiend wrote:
I do appreciate the answers though I'd be lying if I said I didn't find the last one somewhat disappointing.

I don't think it's necessarily something they wouldn't be able to do, physiologically speaking, but rather, something they'd find extremely exhausting, stressful, and difficult to do. Much like a human juggling multiple objects of very different shapes and weights.

Grand Lodge Contributor

Loreguard wrote:

Interesting random thought...

So if an Astrazoan saw a creature, it would be able to reproduce the look of the creature. Now does the prior statement change if said creature they saw, was not a real creature, but a creature produced by illusion magic?

I'm inclined to say no because an illusion is not a creature, but then that'd weirdly enough make it possible to use shapeshifting as an illusion detector. So I guess it depends. As a GM I'd probably rule that if the illusion gives sufficiently accurate information about the creature's appearance, etc. then it'd be possible. If the illusion gives limited information (compare with the creature swimming in a lake mentioned above), then there's a severe penalty to the skill check or the transformation just fails.

There's a lot of gray area that rules don't (and quite frankly can't or shouldn't) cover, so that's where GM fiat comes in.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I came up with some guidelines for astrazoan shapechanging for my own campaign a few years back and was extraordinarily pleased/relieved that they stayed compatible with the Interstellar Species revisit. (In a later conversation these were sort of dubbed "sanity guidelines.")

Looks like my astrazoan PC's player doesn't have any questions, so I'll just note (hopefully for your entertainment) that we got some interesting emergent roleplaying out of her character concept. She's an astrazoan raised by an astrazoan couple who chose to commit themselves to lashunta personas ("selves" to switch to the IS term) for professional reasons. (They're diplomats who assisted in ending the Lashunta-Formian wars.) They raised their child in Qabarat as a female lashunta to the extent that she now "identifies" as a lashunta woman (who as it happens can shapeshift), but at their core they still see themselves as astrazoans who've simply committed to long-term "selves."

Before becoming an adventurer, the PC followed her parents' career as a diplomat, but eventually, after moving offworld, she discovered a love of (and talent for) singing and created a new "self" to become a sugar-pop musician.

The PC hid this self from her parents for years, thinking they wouldn't approve of her wasting time on such a frivolous career but then, during actual play, she eventually got to go home and reveal the truth. Turns out her parents were delighted to learn she'd created a second self; they were worried that their "daughter" was too tied to a single persona, and strongly encouraged her to embrace the creation of new selves.

She also learned that since she'd moved out, her parents had switched selves: "Mom" was now "Dad" and vice versa. Their explanation was that they wanted to keep their shapeshifting skills sharp (and be ready in case one of them needed to cover for the other for whatever reason), but really it was more of an empty nester thing. The PC, who still primarily thinks of herself as a specific "self," found this... weird. Basically it turned into a first-/second-generation immigrant scenario, with the kid being both immersed in their parents "old ways" but more strongly embracing the adopted culture.

Her parents, who also only had the one child, also feel guilty about not doing enough to perpetuate their species, so they keep trying to matchmake her with other astrazoans, which the daughter also finds mildly annoying.

Side Note: The PC is also terrible with relationships; turns out as a teenager she fell in love with a lashunta boy, tried to reveal her true form to him, and... it didn't go well. When, during actual play, she charmed another lashunta off his feet, she kinda freaked out (and literally ran) the moment she realized he was getting serious about her.

Side Note 2: There's a particular Starfinder Society scenario wherein supernatural radiation can cause the PCs to temporarily "devolve" -- I had fun reskinning the rules to have her devolve into an ilee (so, basically, a collection of weird, alien body parts). She spent most of that scenario with a shirt wrapped around her head to hide her monstrous features.

Anyway, thought you might find this real-play report amusing.

Grand Lodge Contributor

Driftbourne wrote:

An astrazoans internal organs don't change when shapeshifting. What happens to their internal organs when an astrazoans shapeshifts into a translucent scyphozoan?

Could an astrazoan shapeshift out of a baneful or regular polymorph?

They can change their pigmentation etc. to become translucent, and also to create other visual effects necessary for looking like a scyphozoan, such as hiding the fact their internal organs look different.

I realize there are many creatures in Starfinder that would be pretty darn difficult to mimic in real life, and I'm sure even within the Starfinder universe people have conversations about it. "How do they do that? No-one knows!" ;-)

Grand Lodge Contributor

Xenocrat wrote:
Driftbourne wrote:


Could an astrazoan shapeshift out of a baneful or regular polymorph?

This is in the basic polymorph rules. Any subsequent polymorph/change shape effect, including one you activate yourself, ends a current polymorph effect.

Yeah, I also think they should be able to change back if targeted by a polymorph effect. While the astrazoan's change form ability doesn't have the polymorph descriptor, they have the shapechanger subtype, and the rules state that shapechangers can end a polymorph effect by using change shape. Now... there is a possible "but" there; the astrazoan's change form is not the same thing as the change shape universal monster rule (notice the difference in ability names), so some might argue that it doesn't work. The same applies to endiffians, they have the shapechanger subtype but the ability is called simulacrum, not change shape.


I was aware of the Endiffian issue but didn’t realize it also applied to the big As.

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John Mangrum wrote:

I came up with some guidelines for astrazoan shapechanging for my own campaign a few years back and was extraordinarily pleased/relieved that they stayed compatible with the Interstellar Species revisit. (In a later conversation these were sort of dubbed "sanity guidelines.")

Looks like my astrazoan PC's player doesn't have any questions, so I'll just note (hopefully for your entertainment) that we got some interesting emergent roleplaying out of her character concept. She's an astrazoan raised by an astrazoan couple who chose to commit themselves to lashunta personas ("selves" to switch to the IS term) for professional reasons. (They're diplomats who assisted in ending the Lashunta-Formian wars.) They raised their child in Qabarat as a female lashunta to the extent that she now "identifies" as a lashunta woman (who as it happens can shapeshift), but at their core they still see themselves as astrazoans who've simply committed to long-term "selves."

Before becoming an adventurer, the PC followed her parents' career as a diplomat, but eventually, after moving offworld, she discovered a love of (and talent for) singing and created a new "self" to become a sugar-pop musician.

The PC hid this self from her parents for years, thinking they wouldn't approve of her wasting time on such a frivolous career but then, during actual play, she eventually got to go home and reveal the truth. Turns out her parents were delighted to learn she'd created a second self; they were worried that their "daughter" was too tied to a single persona, and strongly encouraged her to embrace the creation of new selves.

She also learned that since she'd moved out, her parents had switched selves: "Mom" was now "Dad" and vice versa. Their explanation was that they wanted to keep their shapeshifting skills sharp (and be ready in case one of them needed to cover for the other for whatever reason), but really it was more of an empty...

John, thanks for sharing this story! I loved reading it, and it sounds like you and your player really get astrazoans. Besides being fun and weird creatures to play, I also intended them to be an allegory of the human existence and all the complexity and challenges related to identity that come with it. In a way, we're all seven-limbed starfish wearing human guises as we go about our daily lives.

Your list of astrazoan rulings is also very accurate, I'd say at least 95% of it matches what I had in mind or what was printed in IS. As mentioned earlier in this thread, I don't think they can create fake clothes, and I also don't think cutting their hair would hurt them. It's not mentioned in the text, but I'd say they can grow hair and other types of filaments that aren't made of the same "fleshy" stuff as the rest of their bodies. If I remember correctly, the new art in IS even shows them as having some hair in their true form. But yeah, for the most part your list is still very accurate.

Lantern Lodge

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

Well, this is fantastic. I came to really enjoy Scyphozoans, although I couldn't figure out where they were originally published - I kept thinking, if it wasn't an Alien Archive, then maybe a Starfinder Society adventure....? And now I found the entry in AP#5, and I am less confused/frustrated.

Primoria is about to be the next-big-thing world in the Vast for my own homebrew campaign.

A scyphozoan prophet (increased from the CR 8 entry in Interstellar Species, up to a CR 10) is about to let my PCs in on a very ancient secret about their home world's ancestral pre-Gap lore, regarding a powerful hero from another reality, and their biotech-mech which they used to defend innocent worlds of the galaxy, far before the advent of modern Drift travel. While the ancient bio-mech is not likely still located on Primoria, clues to its eventual whereabouts are destined to be discovered there.

Along with several other really fun factors to the story's plotlines, this campaign will also delve into analyzing and decoding the witchwarper's infinite worlds ability on a technical level, it will deal with at least one known alternate reality, it will feature mechs, planar connections (especially the First World, via an acquired First Drive), and at least a little bit of corporate espionage between some dragon corps of Triaxus. I am running on the working title, Project Flux.

I just wanted you to know - because Primoria is a lovely and rich environment for exactly the sort of story I want to tell. One last helpful hint: my ancient mech-fighting hero is somewhat themed on Super Sentai/Power Rangers protector of the galaxy.

Lantern Lodge

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

I guess it's also worth noting that - although we are now thoroughly into Drift Crisis territory in many regions and timelines - this campaign I am talking about is still pre-Crisis, and hopefully won't be dealing with it too awful much.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Driftbourne wrote:
Would shapeshifing for an astrazoan include basic clothing as well?

So the Gold Standard for gear for shapeshifters, whether they be astrozoans, or those who play with polymorph extensively, is the Light Experimental Neural Interface Suit from The Penumbra Protocol (Signal of Screams part 2). You won't find it in the AoN because the AP version of the suits comes with some upgrades already installed that are tailored for the needs of the plot. However, it is well worth wearing even after you've reached higher tiers due to the fact that it will match whatever form you find yourself in.

Easier access, and available from a much lower level, is the Operative's Armor Optimizer exploit, which can be grabbed with a two level dip, which is low enough to be manageable, if still painful if your build goes a different direction. Unfortunately, the rules don't say how long it takes to adjust your armor. Our table adjudication was that the character has built in a number of discreet fasteners and adjusting straps into ous armor (+200C in cost), allowing the exploit to be used in a minute to prep for shifting to another form.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Due to the presence of our astrazoan PC, I've house ruled that shifting between "pretty similar" forms (such as female damaya lashunta > female damaya lashunta, or male human > male android, damai, etc.) is "close enough" that the astrazoan doesn't need to swap out or adjust their armor or clothes. 'Cause otherwise, yeah, the rules make it pretty clear through counterexamples that armor and clothing should not normally change when the astrazoan does.

(Between the game's shapeshifter PC species, polymorphing, morphic skin, and the like, Starfinder is overdue for a simple armor upgrade that makes worn clothing and armor adapt to a shapechanging wearer.)

Grand Lodge Contributor

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xidoraven wrote:

Well, this is fantastic. I came to really enjoy Scyphozoans, although I couldn't figure out where they were originally published - I kept thinking, if it wasn't an Alien Archive, then maybe a Starfinder Society adventure....? And now I found the entry in AP#5, and I am less confused/frustrated.

Primoria is about to be the next-big-thing world in the Vast for my own homebrew campaign.

A scyphozoan prophet (increased from the CR 8 entry in Interstellar Species, up to a CR 10) is about to let my PCs in on a very ancient secret about their home world's ancestral pre-Gap lore, regarding a powerful hero from another reality, and their biotech-mech which they used to defend innocent worlds of the galaxy, far before the advent of modern Drift travel. While the ancient bio-mech is not likely still located on Primoria, clues to its eventual whereabouts are destined to be discovered there.

Along with several other really fun factors to the story's plotlines, this campaign will also delve into analyzing and decoding the witchwarper's infinite worlds ability on a technical level, it will deal with at least one known alternate reality, it will feature mechs, planar connections (especially the First World, via an acquired First Drive), and at least a little bit of corporate espionage between some dragon corps of Triaxus. I am running on the working title, Project Flux.

I just wanted you to know - because Primoria is a lovely and rich environment for exactly the sort of story I want to tell. One last helpful hint: my ancient mech-fighting hero is somewhat themed on Super Sentai/Power Rangers protector of the galaxy.

Sorry it took me a while to respond! One way to find where a Starfinder creature was first published might be to search for the species' entry in the Starfinder Wiki and see what references are listed. AP #5 details some locations on Primoria that weren't mentioned in IS, so it may be useful for designing adventures that take place on the planet.

Glad to hear you're getting a kick out of scyphozoans and Primoria! The biotech mech is a great idea. Curious to hear more about it, like what it looks like and what weapons and abilities it has. :)

Recently, I've been exploring the possibilities of using ChatGPT to assist in RPG design, and as a test, I fed all information about scyphozoans and Primoria to the AI, and then asked it to create various types of new content for Primoria. Here are a few things it created / co-authored with me:

Weird scyphozoan weapons:

Spoiler:
Bioluminescent Net: This weapon is grown from a modified species of plankton that creates a bright, bioluminescent light. When thrown, the net spreads out and ensnares the target, while also blinding them with the intense light.
Stinging Cell Whip: This weapon is made from the stinging cells of scyphozoan tentacles, which are woven together to create a whip-like weapon that can be used to strike and sting the target.
Jellyfish Shield: This weapon is grown from a modified species of jellyfish, which can be used to create a barrier of stinging cells around the user, protecting them from attacks.

New creature:

Spoiler:
Deep in the heart of the Arbaath forest, lies a terror unlike any other. It was born in a laboratory, a weapon created by a group of mycelars to defend against the scyphozoan invasion. But it escaped, and now it roams the forest, hunting for its prey. The Fungal Synapse, as it is called, has the ability to produce massive mushrooms, which at first glance, appear to be living creatures. They mimic the forms of scyphozoans and even humans, luring them closer with their deception. But these mushrooms are not what they seem. They are the spawn of the Fungal Synapse, and they are deadly.

The Fungal Synapse has psionic abilities, it can control the minds of those it lures in. It can make them see things that aren't there, hear whispers in the darkness, and feel a sense of impending doom. It feeds on their fear and their life force, growing stronger with every victim it claims.

There are rumors of sections of the forest that are haunted. People who dare to venture too deep, never return. The screams of the victims echo through the trees, but no one knows where they come from. The Fungal Synapse is a creature of nightmare, a horror beyond imagination.

New faction:

Spoiler:
The Myco-Symbiotes are a dangerous and controversial faction of scyphozoans who have pushed the boundaries of genetic modification to new heights. They believe that the key to Primoria's future lies in merging their biology with that of the mycelars, creating powerful hybrid beings. This process involves splicing together the DNA of both species to create individuals with heightened senses, greater strength, and other abilities. While it's normal for Primorians to combine technology from both races, the creation of symbionts and hybrids has never been attempted before.

Primorian artists:

Spoiler:
The Chromatophore Canvas - a group of scyphozoan artists who use their ability to change skin color to create stunning and dynamic works of art. They are known for creating large-scale murals that shift and change as the viewer moves around them.
The Mycelar Maestros - a group of mycelar artists who specialize in creating and performing music using a wide range of instruments grown from various types of fungi. They are known for their use of large, trumpet-like instruments used to create a powerful and majestic sound. They also use drum-like instruments grown from the caps of mushrooms often used to create a steady, driving beat in their music. Additionally, the Mycelar Maestros also use stringed instruments grown from the mycelium of certain species of fungi. These instruments produce a haunting and ethereal sound. Their performances are often accompanied by mesmerizing visual displays of bioluminescent light and other natural phenomena.
The Invertebrate Architects - a group of scyphozoan artists who specialize in designing and growing buildings into desired forms. They are particularly skilled in creating buildings that are able to move and change shape, such as a house that can open and close like a clam or a building that can change color like a mimic octopus. In addition to buildings, the Invertebrate Architects also create sculptures that are both beautiful and functional, such as a giant sea anemone that acts as a water filtration system or a sculpture of a squid that doubles as a lighting fixture. They believe that their work not only pushes the boundaries of art and architecture, but also serves a greater purpose by highlighting the importance of utilizing natural resources in a sustainable way.
Bioluminescent Theater - a form of live performance where actors use their natural bioluminescent abilities to create an immersive light show. The audience can watch the performance from the water or from a floating platform above.
Plankton Ballet - a form of dance performance where scyphozoan dancers herd and manipulate swarms of plankton to create mesmerizing light shows.

Ancient Primorian deities:

Spoiler:
The Tide-Bringer: Known as the god of the oceans, this ancient god is said to control the tides and sea level of Primoria. Many coastal scyphozoan communities would offer sacrifices to The Tide-Bringer in hopes of bountiful harvest and calm seas. Some depictions of The Tide-Bringer show it as a massive, tentacled creature, while others show it as a powerful wave.
The Fungal Queen: This ancient god is said to have created the mycelars and to rule over the vast fungal forests of Primoria. Many mycelar communities would offer sacrifices of rare and valuable mushrooms to The Fungal Queen in hopes of a bountiful harvest. Some depictions of The Fungal Queen show it as a massive, mushroom-like creature, while others show it as a humanoid figure made of fungus.
The Hunter: This ancient god is said to have created the giant invertebrates that roam the landmasses of Primoria and to rule over the hunt. Many scyphozoan communities would offer sacrifices of prey animals to The Hunter in hopes of successful hunts. Some depictions of The Hunter show it as a massive, invertebrate creature, while others show it as a humanoid figure holding a spear.
The Drifter: Known as the god of the sky, this ancient god is said to control the winds and the weather. Many scyphozoan communities would offer sacrifices to The Drifter in hopes of good weather for travel and migration. Some depictions of The Drifter show it as a massive, winged creature, while others show it as a humanoid figure holding a staff or a bow.
The Shaper: This ancient god is said to have created the intricate and unique patterns on scyphozoan bodies and to rule over their reproduction. Many scyphozoan communities would offer sacrifices of their own eggs to The Shaper in hopes of healthy offspring with impressive patterns. Some depictions of The Shaper show it as a massive, tentacled creature, while others show it as a humanoid figure holding a paintbrush.
The Weaver: This ancient god is said to have created the intricate and symbiotic relationships between the various organisms on Primoria and to rule over the balance of the ecosystem. Many scyphozoan and mycelar communities would offer sacrifices of rare or endangered organisms to The Weaver in hopes of maintaining the delicate balance of the ecosystem. Some depictions of The Weaver show it as a massive, spider-like creature, while others show it as a humanoid figure holding a loom.

Dangerous cult:

Spoiler:
The Tide-Bringer Cult: This secretive scyphozoan religious sect worships an ancient god known as The Tide-Bringer, who they believe controls the tides and sea level of Primoria. They believe that the red moon Acryllae is a manifestation of their god and have been planning a pilgrimage to its surface for years. However, their true goal is to take over a scientific station on the moon and use its advanced technology to upset the tidal system of Primoria, causing massive floods and natural disasters. They believe that this cataclysm will bring about the return of The Tide-Bringer in its true form, and they will be rewarded for their devotion. Many fear the cult's true intentions, and their plans must be stopped before it's too late.


Love the astrazoan. Played one who was a hard-boiled detective (borrowing heavily from the Martian Manhunter / John Jones) in Threefold Conspiracy.

Wayfinders

Mikko Kallio wrote:
Recently, I've been exploring the possibilities of using ChatGPT to assist in RPG design, and as a test, I fed all information about scyphozoans and Primoria to the AI, and then asked it to create various types of new content for Primoria. Here are a few things it created / co-authored with me:

My computer died a few weeks back and I haven't been able to afford a new one yet. So not having access to my normal digital tools for making art on my cheap Chromebook I played around with AI art for a while. I found it VERY hard if not impossible to get an image remotely close to what I was looking for, but found it very useful for brainstorming. Thanks for sharing your ChatGPT experiment's very interesting results.

Grand Lodge Contributor

E-div_drone wrote:
Driftbourne wrote:
Would shapeshifing for an astrazoan include basic clothing as well?

So the Gold Standard for gear for shapeshifters, whether they be astrozoans, or those who play with polymorph extensively, is the Light Experimental Neural Interface Suit from The Penumbra Protocol (Signal of Screams part 2). You won't find it in the AoN because the AP version of the suits comes with some upgrades already installed that are tailored for the needs of the plot. However, it is well worth wearing even after you've reached higher tiers due to the fact that it will match whatever form you find yourself in.

Easier access, and available from a much lower level, is the Operative's Armor Optimizer exploit, which can be grabbed with a two level dip, which is low enough to be manageable, if still painful if your build goes a different direction. Unfortunately, the rules don't say how long it takes to adjust your armor. Our table adjudication was that the character has built in a number of discreet fasteners and adjusting straps into ous armor (+200C in cost), allowing the exploit to be used in a minute to prep for shifting to another form.

Yeah I think you (and John Mangrum) are right. In hindsight, a piece (or set) of equipment to deal with this problem would have been a great addition to IS. In any case, I agree with John that for sufficiently similar forms, the GM should allow changing forms without adjustments. The adjusting straps you mentioned sounds like a good house rule to make quick adjustments between less similar forms possible.

Grand Lodge Contributor

MurderHobo#6226 wrote:
Love the astrazoan. Played one who was a hard-boiled detective (borrowing heavily from the Martian Manhunter / John Jones) in Threefold Conspiracy.

Sounds like a fun concept for a Starfinder character. Did you use a spellcasting class or equipment to also get invisibility, flight, super-speed, etc.?

Driftbourne wrote:
Mikko Kallio wrote:
Recently, I've been exploring the possibilities of using ChatGPT to assist in RPG design, and as a test, I fed all information about scyphozoans and Primoria to the AI, and then asked it to create various types of new content for Primoria. Here are a few things it created / co-authored with me:
My computer died a few weeks back and I haven't been able to afford a new one yet. So not having access to my normal digital tools for making art on my cheap Chromebook I played around with AI art for a while. I found it VERY hard if not impossible to get an image remotely close to what I was looking for, but found it very useful for brainstorming. Thanks for sharing your ChatGPT experiment's very interesting results.

I'm glad you found it interesting. I've tried Dall-e for image generation, and was only able to get rather weird-looking results. :-D But I guess it takes some trial and error, and takes some practice to learn to write the prompts in the right way. With ChatGPT, it was a bit easier, but the results seen above also required multiple tries and basically just discarding all "meh" results and focusing on the good stuff. Still, it's an amazing productivity and creativity boost for RPG designers and other creatives.

---

Oh by the way, I think it makes sense to expand the scope of this thread beyond just astrazoans and scyphozoans. I've written a bunch of other stuff too, so feel free to ask about e.g. Scoured Stars, wataroons, or Abysshead.

Dark Archive

I kind of have AI generation allergy nowadays :'D (though I also think AI tends to generate stuff that is weirdly generic in hard to place way)

I think main problem with it is that I don't think I could use it because I wouldn't be able to feel confident about whether its "my writing".

Wayfinders

I just happen to need info on Abysshead, My character is currently backstage at the Ruby Theater. Not far from where Lynthia is Judging a battle of the bands contest. What public information would be available on the infosphere I could find on my com unit about Lynthia poisoning a former lover, or Abysshead trying to summon a demon live on stage?

We're currently playing through SFS 5-08: Tarnished Legacy Star Sugar Superstar. The whole band doesn't appear in the adventure, just Lynthia. What books or adventures have you written about Abysshead appear in?

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