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.

Verces is the fifth planet from the sun in the Golarian system, and it's tidelocked. I didn't know what tidelocked meant, but I guess it means that, like the Earth's moon, Verces doesn't spin on an axis. One half of the planet is permanently day, and the other half is eternally night. What an amazing and weird concept for an inhabited world. But wait, it gets weirder.

The only habitable portion of Verces, due to the extreme conditions on ⅞s of the planet, is the ring around the middle where day and night meet. It's a planet, so that area is pretty big, of course, but that's all the inhabitants of Verces has to work with.


Verce is home to the verthani, 8-foot humanoids with black eyes and skin that can change colour. Common aliens on the planet include the kasatha and sherrin, both of which are core Starfinder races.

Cybernetic enhancement is a hot topic on Verce. Some cultures are really really into it (for some, it's even a religious ritual to go out and get your limbs destroyed by frostbite and then to be wired up to ships as a limbless pilot), and others are vehemently against it. This is the cause of some friction, but overall the planet is considered internally a peaceful one.

Sites of interest

There are a number of useful locations described on Verces.

Camshaft is a Mad Max or Rage style junk town, the destination for scavengers of the Dustlands (the sunny scorched wasteland half of Verces). Five different (unnamed, sadly) factions run the town, and frequently compete for the ancient tech buried in the wastelands. Easy adventuring material, obviously.

The Cruori Caves are rumoured to hold blood-drinking beasts (called bloodbrothers, apparently, but the book provides no explanation of what those are, so I assume they're in the Alien Archive), and so they're quarantined. Again, an easy destination for adventure, and probably any dungeon every created could easily be adapted to work here.

Mafentra is home to barbarian Ysbo Clans, who ride around on eshars (big sand serpents) and raid stuff. There's a graveyard in the region, so arguably there could be proper tombs, so the players could raid the raiders.

And finally, the Skydock is a space station that's tethered to the surface. "Space elevators" regularly travel between the planet's surface up to the station. Not much detail's given on the station itself, but it's a quarter of a million inhabitants, so it's not small, and it pre-dates the Gap. Unfortunately, the Gap is such an ill-defined story element that calling Skydock "ancient tech" could mean pretty much anything, so you have to decide what exactly Skydock looks like.

I happen to know from Paizo's Distant Worlds Pathfinder source book that Skydock existed "way back" in Pathfinder Times. The problem with the Gap, though, is that we (the players and GM) have no idea how long ago Pathfinder Times were. Does Pathfinder stop, and then Gap, and then suddenly everything's space age? Or are we to assume that Pathfinder Time goes on for a long while, and technology develops, and there's a Pathfinder-but-almost-Starfinder time, and then the Gap, and then we're in Starfinder? It's really hard to understand what the Starfinder authors have in mind, here, and it's exclusively because the Gap makes the time non-contiguous. The more often I encounter a detail needlessly obscured by the Gap, the more it annoys me. It's one thing to say that the in-game characters don't know what happened during the Gap, but it's quite another to tell your players that they're meant to play in a continuous multiverse, that you reference frequently in books, and that most of your players are already familiar with, with a non-contiguous timeline. It's the weakest feature of Starfinder.

From Distant Worlds:

The legendary needle-spire of Skydock, which is in fact a magical cable stretching all the way to space and tethering the satellite at the end of the cable in geosynchronous orbit. Those given the opportunity to teleport to the top find themselves in a cramped complex that is one part military base, one part port, and one part shipyard.

So Skydock is canonically Pathfinder-ancient. You could make it a relic of Ye Olde Pathfinder, powered by magic and magicpunk tech, or you could assume that it was developed and upgraded over the time since Distant World was written, and runs off of space age technology a few hundred years old.

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, Zendikar is Tomb Raider world, Amonkhet is ancient Egypt 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

This was a good section, and Verces is a fun planet to read about, and I think it would be fun to run an adventure there.

Next up is Idari. If you know your Pathfinder astronomy, you probably know that there's no planet called Idari, and yet that is indeed what's next. Now isn't that mysterious?

Header photo by Seth Kenlon, Creative Commons cc0.

Previous Post Next Post