It’s Here! Starfinder for Fantasy Grounds
While I was away this weekend, I saw that SmiteWorks had released the Starfinder content for Fantasy Grounds. They currently offer the core rulebook, the Alien Archive, and the first three modules in the Dead Suns adventure path. The good news is that if you have hardcover versions of these products registered with Paizo, then you’ll get a discount on the Fantasy Grounds materials after you link your SmiteWorks and Paizo accounts through the Fantasy Grounds website. If you haven’t purchased the physical books or the PDF from Paizo before you buy the content through FG, you will get a free PDF copy of the same from Paizo, so be sure to link your accounts, people!
I haven’t had a chance to use the system aside from kicking the tires and completing 2 PC records, and by poking around and trying to do the things that would happen in the course of play (combat, assigning items, resting and spending points, etc). By and large, it seems that there’s not a whole lot of “new” involved here; if you’ve used Fantasy Grounds in the past, pretty much everything should work as expected. I say “pretty much” because I did run into some issues here and there, but the SmiteWorks development team has already been active on the forums, acknowledging reports from users on what needs attention.
My first goal was to re-create two characters that I had made using the hardcover rulebook to see how Fantasy Grounds automation worked. FG is both a blessing and a curse for gamers and GMs. On one hand, it takes a lot of the burden off of everyone by doing calculations for all kinds of stats. For example, to apply a race’s special bonuses, you can drag an icon from the loaded core manual database onto the character sheet’s “Race” section, and the proper fields will be filled out automatically and bonuses and penalties applied. This can help players get up to speed quickly at the start of a new adventure by not having to flip back and forth through the core rulebook or search the FG-exposed edition for the steps and tables needed. On the other hand, this method obfuscates a lot of the math and values that go into making the numbers meaningful. Last night I was trying to reconcile the ability scores of one of the characters I was working on but wasn’t seeing the bonus values the way I could see them on the official character sheet from Paizo. Reason being, of course, is that FG was holding them behind the veil and applying them on my behalf. While all’s well that ends well, relying strictly on the automation doesn’t help a new player come to grips with how the system works (i.e. “how the sausage is made”, if metaphors are more your thing).
After I made my two characters, I put one into the combat tracker against an NPC to see how combat worked. Again, it worked a lot like traditional FG combat, with initiative calculations, targeting, and double-click-to-attack-and-damage that makes FG sessions run smoothly. In the screen above, I put a ranged PC against an NPC. Starfinder has two types of armor class: kinetic and energy and AC used is determined by the type of damage the weapon does. FG handled this just fine, even listing the AC type used in the chat window. Also, rather than subtracting damage from HP initially, Starfinder takes the first points away from Stamina, and that worked just fine as well, although in this implementation values are tracked as “wounds” for HP loss, and “fatigue” for stamina loss. This might throw people who have played Starfinder in person or on other VTTs like Roll20 because there is no concept of “wounds” or “fatigue” in the official rules. In fact, there seemed to be several different ways of doing things in the FG implementation that aren’t represented in the official sheet, and which aren’t sourced from the core rulebook. If you look at the character sheet in the second image above, Resolve Points have a “control panel” in the lower right corner of the sheet. I haven’t exactly figured out how to use this section, with it’s three blue buttons intended to apply Resolve mechanics. The tl;dr of this is that FG is erring on the side of making things easier for players to use and see, while also using these elements for the underlying automation. It doesn’t alter the rules in any way.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Starfinder in Fantasy Grounds will be starships. As one might expect from a game set in space, there’s the opportunity for players to engage in some interstellar combat, be it of the Star Wars or the Star Trek variety (depending on the will of the table). FG implements a character sheet for the player’s starship(s).
However, this is a non-standard situation for FG. Most game systems (that I am familiar with through FG) only have the concept of the player-character. Starships are a whole new ballgame because they are multi-crewed, with each player handling a different aspect. The pilot is in charge of movement, gunners are in charge of shooting, engineers are in charge of repairs, and the captain is the one giving the orders. Each player starship comes with its own character sheet, shown above (although it threw a wall of errors when I first loaded it), while NPC starships are presented in the simpler NPC sheet format. When it comes time to get into combat with a starship, it’ll need its own special combat tracker which is not yet implemented.
Core Rule Book
The best part about buying a game system for FG is that they are one part technical (all the theming and calculations and such) and one part informative. The CRB that comes with the ruleset is basically what you need to learn and play Starfinder in FG. It has the same content as the hardcover version including images and tables, although when working through character creation I noticed that some tables were difficult to find, being presented in certain window OTHER tab sections (such as the spells-per-day table under the class definition for my Mystic).
The CRB is always a good item to share with players for a few reasons. First, it allows players to have access to all of the rules in a searchable format. Second, it gives them access to all of the races, themes, classes, weapons, armor, and items that they can drag-and-drop on their character sheet (especially handy when leveling up). There is an SRD edition available , so “I don’t want to pay that much for a game rulebook” is really not an excuse when browbeating potential players into playing the game.
Overall it seems that the CRB is another solid offering from FG, and has apparently been officially blessed by Paizo. That’s not to say there won’t be issues or some head-scratchers, but it seems to be all there.
Basically, the Alien Archive is a slim folio of notable creatures and some info on additional races that players could choose for character creation. This is not a good one to share with players, which is why FG offers two versions in one package: the GM version with all the creature stats and stuff, and a player version which contains the new races and some additional items that players can access for drag-and-drop functionality.
There are some reports on the forums that the Alien Archive has some slight launch-day data quality issues, so if you’re gearing up to use this resource, cross reference with the hardcover and/or PDF when deploying a creature and/or item (remember, if you buy the content from FG, you get a free PDF version of the same content from Paizo if you link your two accounts!)
Incident At Absalom Station (Dead Suns 1)
Like the CRB, the first Dead Suns module is presented as a full-text breakdown of the hardcover/PDF of the same. Loading this module into your campaign will expose the images, NPCs, items, and starships that are custom to this module.
I didn’t spend a lot of time in the module proper but looked through quickly as a test for being able to surf through to find the info a GM might need in the heat of the session. It worked very well. Again, word on the FG forums is that there are some known issues with this (and/or possibly parts 2 and 3) module, particularly having to do with starships.
I know that a lot of people have been chomping at the bit for Starfinder on Fantasy Grounds — myself especially — so I’m glad to finally have all this content all at once! However, I think there could have been a little more time spent on QA. Problem is, some of the issues being reported come from diverse attempts to “do stuff”, stuff probably well outside what in-house QA might even think of trying to do over the course of testing. I know the SmiteWorks team is rather small, and I believe that a few of those who worked on the Starfinder implementation are volunteers, so I don’t bear any of them any ill will, and I know they’ll get all of this ironed out so long as the community reports their issues in a spirit of helpfulness (i.e. without being assholes about it). Hell, I’m just ecstatic to finally have the system in FG!
If you’re really wanting to use FG for your Starfinder game, run — don’t walk — to the Fantasy Grounds store, link your account to Paizo, and pick up the content. If you’re put off by launch-day bugs and really rely on FG’s automation to handle the bulk of the game, then check back in a month or so; the hardcover purchase discount is not temporary (AFAIK), so you won’t miss out on anything except that sweet, sweet Starfinder implementation in Fantasy Grounds (for a little while).
 I thought the SRD edition that’s been available on the web was Paizo’s edition, but when I visited the site this morning there was a popup informing me that no, they are not official. In fact, they had to rename their site and URL to omit the word “Starfinder”, as it’s trademarked by Paizo. However, the site has been making the rounds, and it’s obvious that Paizo knows about them and they are still in operation. It’s expected that Paizo will release their own SRD site for the system at some point, but meanwhile the unofficial version should contain the same core rules as can be found in the CRB.