Pact Worlds Review


settings rpg starfinder scifi

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.

Aucturn is the thirteenth celestial body (counting the Diaspora) from the sun in the Starfinder version of the Golarion system. It's an accursed and desolate [non-literal] gateway to the horrors of the Old Ones. This planet is where the Lovecraftian gods are closest, and I definitely want to visit.


The Aucturn section, bizarrely, kind of assumes you're already familiar with the factions that exist on the planet. It just starts talking about them as if they'd been introduced in a previous chapter, and it leaves it up to you to figure out their relationship. If you read the section carefully, you figure it out, but I found it pretty abrupt.

And also confusing.

The Cultists worship Nyarlathotep, and the Dominion of the Black revere the Old Ones. The Dominion of the Black drove out most of the cultists, so the planet is mostly Dominion of the Black now. The confusing thing is that Nyarlathotep, at least canonically in the Lovecraft mythos, is an Old One. Maybe the implication is that, because Nyarlathotep is in the pantheon of Starfinder, he's not considered an Old One in this universe. Or maybe the Dominion of Black just didn't appreciate that the cultists were focused on Nyarlathotep alone. Either way, it's confusing and I wish there was a better explanation.

Looking to Paizo's Distant Worlds, it seems that the cultists of Nyarlathotep used to dominate the planet, although the Black Citadel (home of the Dominion of Black) did exist. It seems that the rise of the Dominion of Black is a Starfinder event, and that its leader, Carsai the King, predates even the Gap. How long ago was that? You'll never know, because the Gap is a big plot hole in the middle of the Pathfinder to Starfinder timeline, but I guess it's sufficient to say that it's been "a while."

Sites of interest

Look, for me "Lovecraft" is enough. I can work with that. I'll just have tentacles bursting out of every surface, engorged godworms descending from the skies, black blood gushing from the player character's eyes, and cultists rising from the refections of constellations in the pools of coalescing noxious gases. I can cobble together a narrative from Lovecraft's Dreamland (and conveniently there are Gugs on Aucturn.)

However, the Aucturn section is pretty well populated with locations, especially considering that it's a planet with a poisonous atmosphere. There's a encampment of cultist holdouts, and then several sites where the Dominion of Black are doing their best to study and I guess prepare the way for the Old Ones. There's one site where a group is guarding a bulbuous formation in the ground with the belief that the planet is about to give birth to a great and terrible godling that will destroy reality, or whatever. It's going to happen really soo, they say, and once it does, everyone who didn't get right with the baby god is going to be sorry. Any day now.

There's also the Black Citadel itself, an ancient castle (with a magically purified air supply) that's home to Dominion members as well as scholars and hermits of all sorts. It's likely a perfect place to drop in whatever dungeon crawl you please, like Rappan Athuk or Dungeon of the Mad Mage, or whatever else.

I love that the atmosphere is poison, too. At first, I thought it seemed like a really bad idea to have yet another planet with a poisonous atmosphere, but then I realised that it was really more atmosphere than poison. I mean, it's literary atmosphere: Just imagine a world that's home to countless sects of a Azathoth (or MANA-YOOD SUSHAI, if you prefer Dunsany) cult, where the pilgrims roam the surface wearing gasmasks. As if the people aren't enough, the very air is oppressive on Aucturn.

As I've said, the goals of the two factions are not made very clear. In a way, they both seem to want the same thing, so I guess whatever crazy world-ending prophecy you need somebody to espouse is probably fair game. To be clear, I don't think it's a problem that the crazy religious fanatics have apparently the same goals and yet are in conflict with one another. In fact, I appreciate the lack of clarity. Crazy religious death cults are easy villains, and they don't require an ounce of logic or consistency to seem realistic (in fact, the less the better.)


There's a player character theme at the end of the section. The Aucturn theme is a cultist, granting you a +1 CON bonus. It appropriately provides you the ability to blend in to any other cult, because you know how to adopt crazy conspiracy theories, and how to treat fantasy as if it were real life.

Magic-style plane

I've decided that the Starfinder worlds need shorthand descriptions, the way one might refer to Magic: The Gathering planes by theme. Innistrad is gothic horror world, Theros is Ancient Greece world, Ravnica is city world, and so on.

So far, this is what I have:

  • Aballon is Factorio and Portal world, with Machinarium world in the cities of the First Ones.
  • Castrovel is Zendikar.
  • Absalom Station is an aircraft carrier bathed in neon, or it's the Enterprise, depending on your preference.
  • Akiton is wild west world.
  • Verces is Mad Max or Rage world.
  • Idari is Chinatown or Casablanca or Marakesh world. It's a necessarily insular community with lots of homegrown shops and markets and traditions.
  • The Diaspora is an asteroid field. I figure anything goes.
  • Eox is cyberpunk Hyperborea.
  • Triaxus is Dragonlance plus Shadowrun.
  • Liavara is SeaQuest world, except the "sea" is a gas giant.
  • Bretheda is Stratos (Star Trek, The Cloud Minders) and the Bespin Cloud City (Star Wars).
  • Apostae is Future Underdark.
  • Aucturn is Lovecraft land.

Those are all the planets. The next chapter is all about starships. And boy do I have thoughts about starships!

Header photo by Seth Kenlon, Creative Commons cc0.

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