The Starfinder roleplaying game by Paizo features a planetary system called the Pact Worlds. To further flesh out the Starfinder setting, Paizo released a Pact Worlds sourcebook and we’ve been chattering about it in the Nerds on Earth Slack channel. We’re sharing a portion of that Salck chat with you to help you decide if the Pact Worlds book is for you.
Let’s talk about the Pact Worlds book for Starfinder
Clave Jones: OK, we’ve both read Pact Worlds now and you mentioned that “you have thoughts.” The first thought I want to hear is your overall thought about the book: love it or leave it?
Natalie Kertzner: Love it.
It’s a great mix of the space-fantasy concept. The cover itself is a bold example of that: a recognizable beast – similar to a dinosaur – fighting with two figures clearly identifiable as “alien.” One is a shirren, the other a kasatha.
I think the cover captures perfectly what I like about good sci-fi: the stories, struggles, and people are familiar, but the setting is alien, both literally and metaphorically.
Clave: For sure. Speaking of the setting, you have DMed approximately 19,000 Starfinder games, so you are probably pretty stoked that the Pact World planets get fleshed out a bit. What are some of the highlights for you?
Natalie: Well, right off the bat, the first thing described in the book is not a planet – it’s the Pact Worlds sun. I imagined life on other planets all the time, but in the Pact Worlds, even the sun is habitable – sort of. The Burning Archipelago is a space station built on the surface of the Pact Worlds sun, so right there the authors are taking you out of your known comfort zone of what to expect.
Perhaps the sci-fi world is just filled with cliches, but as I was reading, my mind was jumping to TV shows and books and movies that reminded me of what I was reading. It was pretty easy to see Leviathan Wakes in the Diaspora, and Firefly in Akiton.
Clave: Yeah, somehow I had missed those “sun bubbles” and they are pretty neat. Paizo sure did some fun stuff with the asteroid belt (The Diaspora) and some of the big planet moons as well. Starfinder players could run adventures for years and still not “scratch the surface” of the planets that Paizo has given us.
But like most of the countries of Golarion, I feel like these planets could use a whole hardcover book to themselves. Is there one planet in particular that you’d love to be given the full treatment?
Natalie: They’re all very interesting, but I’d really like to see Liavara a little more. Not just for the planet itself, but for its moons as well.
Bretheda in the same vein – there is so much more on those planets than others. It seems that they allocated 10ish pages to each planet, no matter how much those planets have in terms of moons and populations.
Considering how much the Vesk race play into Pact Worlds society, I’d love to see a completed standalone book on the Veskarium system as well.
Clave: Yes! Both Liavara and Bretheda were really neat! And the player themes that went with those–particularly the Biotechnician of Bretheda–were good too. What did you think of the included play options overall?
Natalie: Well, we know there is a standalone armory book coming out, so I can’t really criticize the limited options with armor and weapons in this book. What I did like is that it seemed to embrace some of the fantasy elements, of the science-fantasy concept, as evidenced by the Wild Warden and Xenoarcheologist themes. Those are like space druids and space bard archeologists.
But they also included some great themes that fit into the science element – Roboticist, Cyberborn, etc.
Clave: Getting gear is one of my favorite parts of tabletop RPGs, so I’m there for the armory book. Yet even in Pact Worlds that is thought of as stricly a setting book, I was pleasantly surprised there were so many player customization options, faction NPCs, and even playable races. It was pretty great mashing up setting, starships, themes, etc., all in a single book. Well played, Paizo.
Natalie: It was a good mix of magical, fantasy, and science.
Clave: Yup, for sure.
What are some of your other thoughts on the Pact Worlds book?
Natalie: This is pretty nitpicky, but in terms of layout, it’s a little annoying that the themes are all spread out. I like the idea of them being discoverable as you read through the book, but I would have preferred a section on new themes all in one place.
Clave: Huh, I didn’t catch that but now that you mention it, it does make it harder to flip through the themes in order to create a character. It’s like you’d almost want to choose your character’s backstory to originate on that particular planet, then choose the theme from the end of that section. Otherwise, you’re flipping for days.
Natalie: I only have the PDF for now, so I have just been using Control+F to find things
Clave: That’s smart. What about the starships? It’s the middle 20(ish) pages of the book.
Natalie: Honestly, I haven’t even looked at the starships, because I try to minimize starship combat as much as I can in whatever I do. I’m all about atmosphere and describing the capabilities and size of a ship, but their mechanical capabilities…
You and I are on the same page about that, I think.
Clave: Totally. But I must admit that I went full 11-year-old boy and drooled over the starship pictures though. There were some pretty neat designs. And I should add that from Remko Troost on down, the entire art and graphic design direction of Starfinder is consistently drool worthy.
That’s all from me. I’m going to leave you with the final thoughts…
Natalie: There is a lot going on in the Pact Worlds, and a lot more that they can explore within the system before leaving it do something on other systems, such as the Veskarium. I’m hoping that in the next few months some “fan favorites” will appear and we’ll start to learn more about those worlds and their people, either through more books or through Starfinder Society scenarios.
Clave: This was fun. We’ll have to play a lot of Starfinder between now and the upcoming armory book, then we’ll have to chat about that one!
[Disclosure: Natalie has done freelance writing for Starfinder Society adventure modules and convention missions.]