I've been reading through the Starfinder source book, Pact Worlds. It's a small book, but fits a lot of information into it, so I'm going to post about sections as I finish them.
Chapter 4, the final chapter of the Pact Worlds book, contains player options. This includes character archetypes, weapons, armour, and some new playable races. It's 32 pages long with a lot of diverse categories of content, so I'm going to split my review of it into two separate posts.
At first glance, Starfinder might seem a little overloaded with terminology for building characters. You've got your race and class as usual, but the Core Rulebook also offers themes as well as archetypes. Don't let the fancy terms fool you, though, it's actually pretty simple.
In D&D 5e, an archetype is called a "sub-class". But the really neat thing about archetypes is that, unlike sub-classes in 5e, they're not specific to any class. Archetypes replace your class features, but they can be wildly different than what someone of your class would normally have access to. For instance, the Arcanamirium Sage gains access to the Identify spell. If you've chosen a class that doesn't normally cast spells, that's not a problem. Pathfinder and Starfinder have "spell-like" abilities that act like magic but have no spell slots associated with them. You can justify this any way you like in the game. Maybe your nuts-and-bolts engineer is keen of eye and mind that you have an uncanny ability to identify even magical items, or maybe you studied at a temple and picked up a few tricks while harvesting kaiburr crystals one day.
Archetypes are an excellent reminder that Paizo wants you to be able to play whatever you want to play. They're not in the business of limiting player choices. It's their job to tag the choices, classify them, attach numbers to them, and then release them back out into the wild. It's your job to play what you want to play.
Appropriately, many of the archetypes defined in this book reveal just a little bit more about the lore and general feel of the Pact World system. Specifically, the archetypes are:
It's not a whole chapter of archetypes, but the ones that are provided are good, they offer more variety for your build, more options for your "skill tree", and more flavour for role play.
Speaking of options, the next section contains a few new feats. Feats tend to be fairly specific bonuses, and most of them have prerequisites you must meet before you can take them. For that reason, the more feats to choose from, the better. This section only contains 6 feats across 2 pages, but I'll take what I can get. Pathfinder had a decade to build up lists of hundreds of feats, so I'm happy to get nickle-and-dime feats in each book as we build to a similar wealth of options in Starfinder.
The Divine Blessing feat takes up one of the two pages of new feats, because there's a different blessing effect depending on the god you worship.
Extended Telepathy and Focused Spellcaster both do exactly what you think they do.
Three Stage Magic feats allow your non-magical character transcend simple party tricks and cast certain spells as a spell-like ability. Of all the new feats, I think this is the one with the most flavour. You can just imagine the moment a character gets so good at a party trick that it basically becomes actual magic.
Players love choices, and Starfinder has a whole universe to account for, so this book provides six new playable character races. As with the archetype section, this one helps tell the story of the Pact Worlds by representing races you're likely to find on the worlds you've been reading about for the past 200 pages. Bizarrely, each race is listed in its plural form ("Astrazoans" instead of "Astrozoan", "Borais" instead of "Borai", "SROS" instead of "S.R.O.", and so on), which Paizo doesn't do in the Alien Archives or anywhere else. It's a little confusing and a little annoying, but at least it's consistent within this section. I can't do it, myself, so I list them here in singular form:
Probably from the "Future Underdark" planet of Apostae, thees seven-tentacle blobs are shapeshifting aberrations and humanoids (yes, they count as both). My least favourite aspect of these is that they shapeshift. You get to be alien, but also you get to look like whatever you want. In my opinion, these are interesting enough without shapeshifting. In fact, they're more interesting without it. That said, I'd play it and I would absolutely shapeshift because I am a gamer, after all, and there's no way I'm going to turn down a +10 to Disguise checks.
The Bantrid are Small Aberrations that were hibernating on the planetoid Hibb, a Liavaran moon, for a few millennia until their ancient alarm clock awakened them. They're sort of like mobile sea coral.
The ~Shadar-Kai~ I mean ~Brunnen-G~ I mean Borais are living undead. That is, they're living creatures who have died while also retaining just enough of a soul to qualify as living. They still require food and air and sleep, but they still qualify as undead in other ways.
Like the Astrazoans, this race gets counted twice when resolving effects. I would absolutely play a Borai, and I'd happily pay the tax of being both Living and Undead in exchange for keeping the Goth tradition.
These are very cool plant people from Castrovel. If you're a fan of Star Trek the Animated Series, this is an easy choice.
A Sentient Robotic Organism (SRO) is essentially a droid. From what I understand, Star Wars trademarked the term "droid" (I never understood how that's possible, as it's clearly just an abbreviation of "android") so I guess Starfinder had to come up with a new word. SRO, in a way, suggests names like "C3PO" and "R2" and so on, but "Ess Are Oh" just seems like a lot to say in real life. I have to assume people would come up with something easier, like "srough" or "ess-row" or maybe even "sure-oh".
Well, the point is, an SRO possesses artificial intelligence so complex that it attracts a soul and is a truly sentient being. It just so happens that it's a robot.
This is a Pathfinder race. The Strix are owlfolk, and although Golarion is currently missing they're now found on Verces, atop the Qjidel spire in the Fullbright desert.
This is Starfinder. By Paizo. Player options are to be expected, and Pact Worlds does not disappoint. Paizo has many strong points, but this chapter exemplifies their eagerness to provide endless choices to players. Because they have the lore and settings to support all the player choices they come up with, everything they provide serves double duty as both a build option and an aspect of subtle storytelling.
Header photo by Seth Kenlon, Creative Commons cc0.