Background Noise – Starfinder Characters

Posted by on Sep 7, 2017 in Starfinder, Tabletop and Board

I spent a good chunk of yesterday throwing down some ideas for the background for my Starfinder character. I then started to turn it into a story. I don’t know that I’ll get around to finishing the story, but I wanted to institutionalize the background both for posterity and for public edification of those who might be interested. So here goes.

 

Burmah Derrud was born on Absalom Station in the Sparks District to parents who worked on maintaining the alien retrofits of the human station. After spending his formative years learning the engineering trade like his parents and his younger sister Kela, Burmah decided he wanted to take some time to try his hand at something else.

Burmah moved up several levels and became a dock worker, loading and unloading cargo from freighters that visited the station. It wasn’t long before he was pulled into an organized crime ring involved with skimming cargo from select freighters. This was a particularly dangerous business because corporations were not known to be lenient with those caught stealing from them, but the criminal organization was large and shadowy enough to remain relatively untouchable…or so Burmah thought.

Due to a careless mistake by his dock partner, both he and Burmah were thrown under the bus by the Organization when station security investigated some missing stock. In a pure case of “the Prisoner’s Dilemma”, Burmah maintained the Organization’s stance that there was no crime, but his partner wasn’t as stoic: he pinned the blame on Burmah, effectively sentencing him to corporate justice.

Burmah had an ace up his sleeve, though: his sister’s husband was an officer with station security, and she convinced him to look after Burmah until the corporate prison ship made its stop at Absalom. Figuring that it was better to apologize than to ask permission, Burmah cold-cocked his brother in law, stole a security space suit after misdirecting attempts to locate his escape route, and fled to the Armada where he was able to stow away on a freighter destined to stop at Akiton.

On Akiton, Burmah learned that he was now considered a wanted criminal — not a high-risk, violent offender, but worthy enough to have a standard “capture and detain” level bounty on his head. He spent a good amount of time with a ysoki tribe, traveling with them on their annual scavenging hunts for technology in the starship boneyards. During this time Burmah constructed his first drone, a hover bot created to help out with his engineering duties in the tribe.

Despite the low-level manhunt for him, Burmah isn’t content to live out his days in relative anonymity on Akiton. He opted to trade his engineering services for open-ended passage on a starship that had made an emergency landing on Akiton for repairs. He has no other plans beyond taking each day as it comes.

 

In other news, I’ve opted to sign up for the subscription to their core content. Every few months, when Paizo publishes a new source book, they’ll auto-charge me, provide me with a PDF, and ship the hardcover to me without my having to do anything. One problem I have with RPGs (and games like X-Wing) is that they pump out content faster than I know and faster than I can afford later on down the line. I figured that I’m interested enough in this system that collecting some of the important books (like their first “creature source book” and later their “locations source book”) is worth keeping up with. As an added bonus, my friend Scott who does a lot of module translation work for Fantasy Grounds mentioned that having the sub will net us a discount on the eventual Starfinder FG content when it’s ready, which is an added bonus since FG is the only way I could possibly get to use any of this.

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It’s Been A While – Character Creation in Starfinder

Posted by on Sep 6, 2017 in Starfinder, Tabletop and Board

Funny thing is, I didn’t even use the dice.

I love tabletop RPGs, so I keep buying them. The problem is that I never get to play them. Starfinder is no exception and despite my initial post, I have come to terms with the decisions made by Paizo regarding the interplay between Star- and Pathfinder. After all, the Universe is a big place, and there’s room for everyone (and room enough to get away from undesirable elements).

Last night I sat down and decided to try my hand at making a character. It has been…oh…several decades since I actually made a non-NPC character for any kind of role-playing system, which is why I was saddened to find that the way sourcebooks explain the character creation process hasn’t changed for the better. At least the Starfinder CRB outright states that the instructions aren’t designed to follow the flow of the character sheet; the sheet is designed to facilitate gameplay and is organized so as to make things easy for the player to reference during the game. I think this has been my issue all along: trying to “work” the character sheet alongside the instructions, but still finding myself all over the geography of the sheet such that by the end of the process I’m starting over at a higher level to ensure that any field left blank wasn’t accidentally overlooked in the process of jumping from one section to another to another to another.

In an odd turn of relatively unrelated events, this character fell into the same mold as the character I recently made for a potential upcoming Pathfinder game. He’s chaotic neutral, meaning that while he’s not actively trying to screw people over, he’s more or less out for himself and won’t hesitate to take his share and leave everyone to squabble over the remainder. His alignment allowed him to naturally fall into the “Outlaw” theme. In some cases we might hear “outlaw” and think of someone wanted by the highest levels of law enforcement, with multi-million credit bounties on their heads, but to me this “outlaw” was merely someone who sliped through the hands of Justice and is trying to make a life for himself with a low profile.

Now, being sci-fi, the one thought that kept going through my mind was “don’t make Han Solo…don’t make Han Solo!” — you know, chaotic neutral*, outlaw, etc. When it came to class, though, I didn’t want to make him a soldier because that would be too obvious. I didn’t want to make an envoy because while I can think of all kinds of scenarios where an “outlaw envoy” would be cool, I didn’t want to play a high-profile criminal. Forget technomancer. I settled on mechanic because it seemed like an innocuous profession where someone could find excuses to keep his head down while also having access to transport to almost anywhere in the universe.

Crap.

Anyway, I believe that the character was completed to specification. The only one thing that worries me is those little last minute applications from feats and racial/class selections that can’t be applied until everything else is done (for example, the weapon focus feat I chose in “small arms” gives me a +1 to attack with said weapons, which I didn’t record until I got the “equipment” phase of creation, which is something like step 8 in the process).

Even though I don’t have a reason to have created a character, it’s bringing back the excitement of the process. Now I’m thinking about a history for this character: why is he an outlaw? What is he doing to stay below the radar? How did he get to be a mechanic, and what is he doing with that profession now? Ultimately, his past is going to position him for whatever future he might experience, should I ever get to use him in an actual game, but regardless I’m enjoying the fun of character creation.

 

* Yeah, some might say that Solo is more Lawful Neutral, but that’s as we know the character from the movies. Before he ever got screen time, though, and outside of whatever media is considered canon these days, Solo was probably way more self-serving than he ended up being in the movies, on account of his reputation.

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Starfinder – Salmon in the Peanut Butter

Posted by on Aug 29, 2017 in Starfinder, Tabletop and Board

I had been casually interested in Paizo’s new RPG Starfinder because I don’t think there are nearly enough high-profile sci-fi RPGs out there*. I was looking to pick up the hardcover core rulebook via Amazon (because of that sweet, sweet Prime shipping) but they were out of stock so I opted to go with the PDF straight from Paizo.com.

Starfinder is built on the same “3.5 edition” ruleset that Pathfinder uses, which means that familiarity with both the 3.5e and the Pathfinder implementation should cover 75% of the meat and potatoes of the core rulebook. A lot of that is practical information that doesn’t stick with me until I have a need to use it, and really my interests lie with the world building that these IPs generate, so I flipped to the last 1/3 of the book to where the lore could be found.

At first, everything seemed on the up-and-up. Cool races, cool classes, and even starship info (how they’re made and how they travel). The core rulebook gives a good rundown of the “official” universe which in this case includes planets, their ecosystems, native and non-native populations, resources, and a bit of history as it is written.

The further I started reading, however, the more disconcerting it became. At one point the text mentions a planet which had just…vanished at some point in the past. While where the planet went is considered to be a mystery, the name of the planet is not: Golarion.

Some people might say “so what?” while some are saying “yeah, so?” and others are saying “of course”, but for the sake of completeness let me add that Golarion is the world of Pathfinder: The High Fantasy Game, meaning that Starfinder takes place in the future of a high fantasy setting. Sure enough, further reading starts name-dropping: elves, dragons, goblins, fucking drow. They’re all still kicking around in this new future, freed from their mortal coils to fly around the universe.

Ugh.

See, I was hoping that Starfinder was a standalone game world because why shouldn’t it be? Why do we need to have a tether to high fantasy still? My friend Talyn claims it’s because Paizo didn’t want to move too far afield from it’s most well-known property so as to ease players from the HF world into a sci-fi world, but I’m pretty sure that gaming nerds are more flexible than that. We already have the abomination that is Shadowrun convincing people that elves and magic are native in cyberpunk (hint: they aren’t), and we’re tragically steeped in That Wargame Made By That Stupidly Litiginous Company Which Shall Remain Nameless Lest We Summon Their Lawyers By Mentioning Them which also puts orcs in space. As of right now — not far removed from the launch of Starfinder — there’s no apparent benefit from integrating both -Finder universes aside from the fact that corporate sensibilities are becoming increasingly poisoned by the “cinematic universe” concept. I would suspect that there probably will be more info forthcoming in regards to the vanishing of the Pathfinder homeworld, and the amnesiac period of anarchy that the Starfinder lore creatively refers to as “the Gap”, but for now having the elder bleed into the younger is just kind of dumb and pointless and saddles the Starfinder universe with unnecessary baggage that high fantasy tropes bring along.

The best part about RPGs, though, is that you can retcon whatever the hell you want. Were I to run a Starfinder campaign, all this Pathfinder nonsense would get totally ignored (i.e. “let’s not go to Camelot, it’s a silly place” except “let’s not go to where the elves live because that’s just dumb”), written completely out, or I’d repurpose it all as some kind of derivative source. Psychic powers are OK, so those can stay, but full-on magic goes away. So do the high fantasy races. I can’t see any reason for keeping those around except as an umbilical to Pathfinder and I have absolutely no reason to do that.

This is really my only gripe with the system, though. The mechanics seem solid (since it’s built on a proven and much-admired foundation, that’s to be expected) and the non-Pathfinder backgrounds are exciting and started giving me ideas the instant I was reading them. I did read a review that complained that the starship combat leaves something to be desired as it can get kind of boring for players who don’t have an active role in running a ship (like a passenger, merc, or cleric). I would still very much like to play Starfinder, but free of whatever implications are intended by linking it back to Pathfinder, because if I wanted Pathfinder, I’d play Pathfinder, thank you very much.

 

* Now, I’m talking pure sci-fi. I know that they’re out there, but I don’t have my finger on the pulse of the RPG market to be able to enumerate them all. Yes, systems like FATE allow you to run whatever you want, and Numenera are kind of sci fi-ish, but in the hierarchy of public consciousness, the RPG pantheon is ruled by high fantasy.

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