Pact Worlds Review

Absalom Station

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.

Golarian was the third planet from the Sun in its solar system, but it (and its moons, I guess) has gone missing.

Absalom Station, once presumably a satellite of the planet, remains, and it's the center of the Pact Worlds. It was the setting for much of the first module of the first Starfinder adventure path, which I've run three times. I felt very familiar with Absalom Station before reading this section. I knew the layout (of the Spike, at least), I knew hangar 94, I even knew how it smelled and how the coffee tasted. But I knew that the Absalom Station I'd imagined and presented to my players was my version of the setting. My Absalom Station is influenced by my time as a kid spent in airplane hangars, and my love for Shadowrun and cyberpunk.

The canonical Absalom Station isn't necessarily a gritty, neon-flickering, oil-stained space port. Then again, it's not necessarily not that, either. Absalom Station is only 5 miles in diameter, but it's implied that it's as tall as you want it to be. There are explicitly "hundreds" of vertical decks in the axis, known as The Spike, and presumably there must be several decks in The Ring, for the station to fit big spaceships at its ports. To me, that means the station isn't necessarily a homogenous environment. Lower decks could be the industrial zone, upper decks could be reserved for upper management, middle decks might be the public face of the station, and so on. Or, if you prefer idealised science fiction, the station could be a clean and tidy hub of egalitarian industry. Paizo makes it clear throughout the book, and especially in the microcosm of the Pact Worlds that is Absalom Station, that there are many different interests at play, represented by governments, corporations, workers, explorers, and scientists. How those often opposing forces get balanced in the game universe is left up to you.

Location location location

Like the section about the Burning Archipelago, this one provides plenty of background and places of interest. There's the Lorespire Complex, the campus of the Starfinder Society itself, the governmental Bluerise Tower, and the Bastion, home to the Stewards. Those are big shining headquarters, though, but the most interesting places are the space docks and trade centres. For instance, the arms of the station, contain amenities and communities for all manner of visitors. For instance, Fogtown is named for Bretheda and Liavara, and have force-walled containment sections filled with the gases required for Brethedan and Lliavaran life. The Puddles is mostly water, with glass tube walkways running throughout for air-breathers.

And then there's the Armada, the Ikea parking lot of Absalom where ships from all over the galaxy gather. Some have probably been there for decades, while others only stay long enough for a quick shuttle ride over to the station for supplies. The ones that have been around for years include "King Curney's Kasbah" (a casino and brothel) and the Simar Communion (a clone experiment that's as creepy as its name suggests) and Valor's Heart (a training vessel for Iomedae clerics.)

Home sweet away-from-home

In many ways, Absalom feels like home to anyone used to playing on Golarion. There are lots of old Golarion references on the station. The churches of Abadar and of Iomedae are strong as ever. The Arcanamirium takes its name from an ancient institution from Golarion. I think there's lots of room in Absalom's story to make it as much of a reimplementation of Golarion as you want.

But you can't ignore that Absalom Station is not Golarion. If you don't have a relationship with Pathfinder's setting, that's probably not significant to you, but for players who know and love Golarion it's a big deal. I admit that when Starfinder was announced, one of my initial fantasies was to step foot on future Golarion to see what had become of famous sites like the Runeforge and Magnimar and Numeria. I wanted to find out how the planet had developed. I wanted to gloat over dead liches who'd been forgotten and weakened by time, and I wanted to fight the ones that were still around. I wanted to run into monks still worshipping ancient gods the rest of the world had neglected, and to uncover secrets that had been buried under new high tech societies.

Starfinder doesn't provide that, or at least it doesn't yet provide that. It's not lost on me, of course, that Absalom Station is a sihedron. The Gap strongly suggests that something's amiss, so I don't imagine that the story of Golarion is actually missing from Starfinder forever. For now, though, Absalom Station is an echo of the planet, and you can lean into that or away from it as much as you want.

Header photo by Seth Kenlon, Creative Commons cc0.

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