Pazio, thanks again for another great game! May I have another piece of crow pie?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Pittsburgh area

    Pazio, thanks again for another great game! May I have another piece of crow pie?

    I started gaming with Star Frontiers and science fiction gaming has always been my true gaming love despite most of the time being spent Ė unsurprisingly Ė on fantasy. The fantasy genre has done much over the decades to close the gap to where the affection gap between them is pretty narrow but sci-fi still wins out. However, science fiction and fantasy have always been ďtwo great tastesĒ that didnít really taste great together for me. For every Star Wars (and there are few), there are dozens of examples of poorly mashing the genres together. Planetary romance and pulp managed it before Star Wars was a thing but the only thing close to Star Wars that did it successfully IMO was Farscape.

    So going into the announcement of Starfinder, I was intrigued but not thrilled. From a Paizo perspective, it made perfect sense Ė it gave the company the opportunity to satisfy Lisaís love of Star Wars with Paizo intellectual property and no licensing headaches and also could satisfy Erikís love of planetary romance/pulp as well as fully realize the science fantasy seeds planted in the PF1 era Golarion system.

    I picked up Starfinder and while I was impressed with some elements, others on first glance didnít quite satisfy my physics-degree based-desire to keep magic out of my science fiction. Iíd found Savage Worlds years before and it provides the science-fiction toolbox I was looking for. (BTW, Pinnacle has a kickstarter for the Irongate expansion for their highly recommended Last Parsec setting underway right now).

    Specifically, I wasnít crazy about NPCs operating by different rules, the gear progression system, and what appeared to be the restrictive nature of the base classes. I was running multiple Pathfinder campaigns and struggling to find regular times to run those and still had my intermittent Last Parsec campaign so there was little incentive to add Starfinder to the mix of games Iíd run.

    But a month ago my eldest son said he wanted to purchase Starfinder with an eye towards running it. For the first time in many years, I would get to be a player rather than a GM, so I threw my Starfinder reservations aside and eagerly dove into Starfinder.

    It iS GLORIOUS!!

    Yes, itís more Farscape and Guardians of the Galaxy than Aliens, Dark Matter, The Expanse, or Firefly (but it can do these also). Yes, it has a specific tone/feel just like Pathfinder is for fantasy so it canít be molded to suit any style of science fiction. Also, yes Ė itís a blast to play!

    My love of Savage Worlds and free-form/magic-free science fiction caused me to forget a lesson I learned when introducing my kids and their friends to Pathfinder. For most new players, class-based games provide structure that facilitates learning the game vs. being so overwhelmed by possibilities that a player doesnít know where to start. The same goes for the gear list and while, yes it is a concession to game balance & structure, itís not as intrusive or problematic as my casual initial Starfinder read-through appeared. And at the end of the day, itís a game and not a physics simulator which is true of every RPG Iíve played in the past 35 years.

    Once my preconceptions and biases were thrown aside, Iíve quickly grown to appreciate the design of this game. We are 4-5 sessions into the campaign and itís fantastic. Some of my favorite SF facets:

    1. Every class is broader than I originally believed. For example an operative, envoy, and even a soldier can be a skilled engineer, not just the Mechanic.

    2. Every class is distinct but can contribute to similar roles via different means. The SF classes are very flexible. Themes allow for further differentiation out of the gate. Having multiple characters of the same class in a party isnít detrimental.

    3. Stamina Points + the removal of non-lethal damage provides a smooth cinematic experience without the limitations of Ultimate Combats Wounds+Vitality system. I like it so much I wish it would be in PF2. I understand why it wonít be, but I want it all the same.

    4. Starship combat is excellent! It brought back Knight Hawks nostalgia but without the rough edges. If Knight Hawks was a classic car, Starfinder is the refined, high tech model of modern engineering.

    5. Ability advancement is vastly superior to PF1. Itís easier to make well-rounded characters instead of having to hyper-specialize.

    6. The broader magical classes that are differentiated by themes/sources/story is superior to PF1ís specialized spellcasting classes. I like that Priest is a theme rather than hard-wired into a class. The removal of arcane/divine makes magic seem more like a universal mystical force that can be interpreted multiple ways. In this respect, magic in SF seems more mystical than magic in PF, which is so categorized & defined that it seems more scientific in comparison.

    7. Bulk is much more manageable than PF1ís encumbrance system. It has its own quirks but I like the system overall.

    Iím still early into the system and have much to learn. While SF may not provide the pure science fiction of say The Expanse or the new Lost in Space out of the box, it does provide an exciting system and setting for science fantasy. As most players and GMs (and Hollywood directors) are perfectly happy moving ďat the speed of plotĒ, the SFCRB provides a new-player-friendly toolkit for expanding beyond FRPGs. It builds off of PF1, the PF Beginner Box, and current media influences and refines the whole into a fun, yet familiar, science fantasy RPG.

    Kudos, Paizo! Now if youíll excuse me, I have to prep my ship. Weíre heading into the Drift!
    XP Shasarak, Jacob Lewis gave XP for this post

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Long Beach, CA
    I wrote a Supers system a few decades ago, and it highlighted one of the base differences between Fantasy game and most other settings: Fantasy games are, to a good degree, loot based.

    Advancement is tied, at least in part, to the quality of gear, so it seems perfectly natural for PCs to constantly try to loot bodies and acquire more wealth and gizmos. Not a normal behavior in most Sci-fi or Supers settings.

    In Sci-fi or Supers games, it's hard to justify a rule that says you can't just pick up an enemy's uber weapon (the one they just used to almost kill you), and use it against the next obstacle or opponent. Yet it seldom happens in any of the books or movies.

    You either have to have a relatively arbitrary rule to prevent it (Champions says you have to pay for that weapon, as a power, with experience points or you simply can't take it), or the system has to allow for it.

    While each setting has its own reality, such rules always seem to intrude on that, an unpleasant lump in the otherwise smooth and consistent flow of the world. One of those "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" things that never go over too well.

    My system used plain old money, and normal legal restrictions to determine what a character could use. More than a few were unhappy that they couldn't just buy and carry a Vulcan mini-gun, which says a lot about the mind set of the players: My system rules said that Supers got 1/5th Exp if they killed people. Their response (typical gamer math) was that that meant they had to kill five times as many.

    How does Starfinder deal with this sort of thing?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Pittsburgh area
    I'm still learning the system but here are my thoughts based on my SF experiences to date.

    Starfinder utilizes an item leveling mechanic which really is just a tier ID. Think Destiny or Borderlands but without the hard level restriction. Nothing prevents a lower-level character from utilizing a higher-level item. The mechanic exists to guide GMs and players so that gear scales appropriately as the character levels.

    In-game rationale is that higher item levels represent item scarcity for sale, vendor trust/willingness to sell "specialty" gear, etc. There's a bit of hand-wavium involved but IMO, it exists A: to satisfy the loot/gear minigame you reference that is associated with fantasy and gear-based games, B: provides some restrictions beyond simple cash, & C: provides an in-game mechanism for baking in the necessary gear scaling that PF1 would provide via magic item enhancements.
    GMs also are explicitly stated as having the right to restrict item purchase availability as desired.

    In practice, this is really no different than the GM not dropping Holy Avengers or +3 armor in adventures built for low-level characters.

    Secondly, Starfinder classes offer different weapon and armor proficiencies. Everyone can utilize a handgun and basic melee weapons but more advanced or specialized weaponry requires access through proficiency feats. So even though that enemy dropped a sweet laser rifle and is wearing heavy armor, that doesn't mean your PC can use it effectively.

    Third, resale value is drastically reduced - a mere 10%. So, if a PC can't use an item, there's a lot less incentive to pick defeated enemies clean because it's rarely worth the trouble to sell the gear.

    Cash & credsticks are king as a result. Kind of like the real world.

    It's not a perfect solution but at the end of the day it's a game and I'm finding it to be an acceptable level of abstraction.

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